The first thing that happens after a Super Bowl matchup is set is everyone considering all the possible storylines for that Super Bowl to assess how interesting it will be. I don’t want to get too hyped about the media, but with a two-week wait after the conference championships on Sunday, there tends to be too much hype to the point of saturation.
With the Bengals and Rams meeting in an upset Super Bowl 56, there will be no shortage of that, given that it’s not the Patrick Mahomes, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers or Josh Allen deal anyone expected.
Here’s help cutting through the opening narratives and sticking to what really matters by breaking down what can happen between Cincinnati and Los Angeles, in Sporting News’ annual Super Bowl demystification session.SUPER BOWL 56 PICKS: against the spread | straight up
Super Bowl 56 Myths: Fiction vs. Fact
Myth 1: The Rams have home court advantage
First, the Rams are playing at SoFi Stadium, but are designated the road team because of how conferences alternate years with that status. Second, the Rams won twice in Los Angeles during the playoffs but went only 5-3 there in the regular season, losing to quality opponents in the Cardinals, 49ers and Titans. The Bengals beat the Titans in the divisional round.The Super Bowl will have plenty of hometown Rams fans in the seats, but SoFi Stadium is expected to be packed with Bengals fans, who have waited 33 years for this moment to come again. Some will go to great lengths to get from Cincinnati to Los Angeles. The Rams had just been to Super Bowl 53 and had a blah performance against the Patriots. As much as the NFL sells the Rams as a big-market team, they don’t attract the same emotional investment. Heck, even the NBC team of Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth will have secret sentimental feelings for their time in Cincinnati.The Rams are the favorites on paper, but the Bengals will be the beloved underdogs for many who don’t have a dog in the mix, unless they’re partnered with Dawg Pound in Cleveland, and even then, they’d probably rather Odell Beckham Jr. didn’t. receives a ring.PLUS: 49ers fans take over SoFi Stadium again in the NFC championship game
Myth 2: The Rams defense will bury Joe Burrow
Please don’t make a drinking game out of how many times some pundit talks about how the Bengals’ offensive line against Aaron Donald won’t give Burrow a chance to win Super Bowl 56, because he doesn’t want to go through that many bottles of tequila first. of game day guacamole. Donald is an excellent defensive player, the best in the game and the most feared interior disruptor. He now has a Defensive Player of the Year teammate in the forward seven, Super Bowl 50 MVP Von Miller. Burrow was the most sacked quarterback in the league (51 times!) during the regular season. He fell nine times (nine times!) in the divisional round against the Titans. He has surpassed that as an MVP-caliber passer who keeps getting better with every game at age 25. Defenses can still win championships, but Burrow has shown there isn’t much to faze him. He’ll hold up and deliver on another field day for the Cincinnati passing game. He will also cleverly avoid Jalen Ramsey and deftly defy pressure.DECOR: The Rams’ huge bet on winning the Super Bowl means the immediate future is all that matters
Myth 3: Cooper Kupp and Ja’Marr Chase are the key wide receivers in the game
Kupp won the receiving triple crown (receptions, yards, and touchdowns) as a 100-yard and scoring machine. Chase had the most impressive rookie season at the position; he was a playmaker both stretching the field and throwing downfield after the catch. Defenses will do their best to contain these two with various coverage looks, but in the end, Kupp and Chase will be wide open and pack a punch due to their talent.But Kupp has a dangerous new No. 2 in Odell Beckham Jr., who replaced the injured Robert Woods. Chase can be considered a tag team partner with Tee Higgins. The team that can get the most out of the “other” starter will win the game. Both OBJ and Higgins participated in conference championships for centuries; the one with the bigger game will probably be on the winning side.PLUS: Beckham says Von Miller, Jalen Ramsey called him ‘every day’ to bring him to LA
Myth 4: Sean McVay will poorly outperform Zac Taylor as a coach
McVay’s trainer tree no longer includes the joke about how everyone is obsessed with finding the next prodigy trainer like him. That’s now serious business with Taylor, his former wide receivers and quarterbacks coach, managing against him in the Super Bowl.McVay is 36 years old, two years younger than Taylor. Taylor is known for his time with McVay, which landed him the job with the Bengals, but the former Nebraska QB’s NFL coaching experience dates back a decade to his time with the Dolphins.Taylor’s staff, including offensive coordinator Brian Callahan and defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo, have been outstanding in their own right. Those top assistants have been as important to him as offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell and defensive coordinator Raheem Morris have been to McVay. The Bengals are well coached; it is evident in his smart and error-free game. Its young core, beginning with Burrow, is wise beyond its years. The Rams have more veterans in the marquee, but on the sidelines, McVay and Taylor will be nearly even as they operate on the same high plane.PLUS: Quick success comes for McVay’s disciples
Myth 5: The Bengals defense has no one to stop the Rams
The Bengals’ defense got the attention it needed in the playoffs for the way it slowed down the Raiders, Titans and Chiefs. Defensive end Trey Hendrickson has proven to be an elite free agent who has turned the tide on his pass rush. It was the final touch to an already strong front four, joining winger Sam Hubbard and tackles DJ Reader and BJ Hill. At the second level, Logan Wilson and Germaine Pratt have been revelations at linebacker. Cornerbacks Chidobe Awuzie, Mike Hilton and Eli Apple, though the latter is much maligned, have all had their moments in the coverage. Safeties Vonn Bell and Jessie Bates have been responsible for big playoff gains.When Donald, Miller and Ramsey are on the other side, there’s no way the Bengals’ defense is going to get top billing. On paper and in numbers they may not look that great, but they are solid all the way around and Anarumo has planned them well to adjust week to week, half to half. They can give up numbers to Kupp and Beckham, but they can slow down the race and put pressure on Stafford to change the game at key moments.PLUS: Eight plays show Mahomes, the Chiefs collapsed against the Bengals
Myth 6: Running games won’t matter with Burrow and Stafford
The best way to keep the quarterback away from pass rushers is to not have to spend all the time for big yards. The Bengals will be keen to continue Mixon’s run against the Rams. They also know when to mark the “run extension” with scripts from Mixon and Samaje Perine. Cincinnati ranked only 14th in passing game frequency in 2021, while Los Angeles only ranked 16th.Mixon can find good running lanes when the Bengals spread the field with 11 or 10 men. Calling his number by proxy between tackles will allow the Bengals’ interior line to push Donald and try to wear him down. The Rams’ running game so far in the playoffs has been an afterthought. They haven’t had an individual runner break the 60 yards between Cam Akers and Sony Michel. But they were effective down the stretch of the regular season with Michel standing out. They run well enough to keep defenses honest and facilitate Stafford’s passes.Both teams can also apply the old-school adage “Pass to score, run to win” when working off a second-half lead.PLUS: How Burrow, Bengals repeated history against Chiefs in the AFC championship
Myth 7: Bengals vs. Rams is a disappointing matchup
Coming full circle, this isn’t Brady playing in a Super Bowl final before retiring. This isn’t Mahomes making the big game for the third time in three years and looking to double his ring total again. This is not Rodgers, love him or hate him, finally appearing in a second, and possibly last, Super Bowl for the Packers. Josh Allen looked ready to light up the biggest stage.But don’t discount the fact that Burrow belongs at the head of the next wave of elite quarterbacks in the AFC in Mahomes and Allen, or that he channels some of the Super Bowl-winning style of Brady, Joe Montana and many other Super Bowl classics. Bowl. quarterbacksAnd don’t forget that Stafford has a good redemption story as a one-time No. 1 overall pick partner. It’s no small feat that he can suddenly match Rodgers, Russell Wilson and, yes, Drew Brees in Super Bowl rings. That, along with his entire 2021 season, may change his narrative from underwhelming in Detroit to Canton’s consideration in Los Angeles, Kurt Warner-style with the Rams (and Cardinals), with a smaller window of excellence.PLUS: Diamond Covered Chain Burrow: ‘Make Too Much Money To Have Fake Chains’Donald is back in a Super Bowl. miller too. Ramsey is playing for the first time after missing out on the Jaguars. Andrew Whitworth gets another chance at age 40. Between Kupp, Chase, Higgins and Beckham, it’s going to be a lot of fun getting talent on the field.This is also the final game of an incredible NFL playoffs. You can feel good that something spectacular will happen. Don’t hit him until you see him. One shouldn’t be surprised if the Bengals vs. The Rams become the last “Greatest Super Bowl of All Time,” because when it’s next, it is.