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Super Bowl LVI: The end of the road

We have reached the end of the road. A journey that began back in September in Tampa Bay, with the Buccaneers and Cowboys, will reach its conclusion Sunday night when the Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals meet on the game’s biggest stage. In a scene fit for Hollywood, it is appropriate they will take the field less than fifteen miles away from the Walk of Fame. Each team put together impressive runs to get to this point, but they each took a noticeably different approach in doing so. Either way, both paths led them to the same place: Super Bowl LVI.

The Rams made it here with an approach that was anything but discrete. They went absolutely all in on making it to this stage and they wanted to make sure everyone knew about it. They traded away almost all their draft capital to acquire Matthew Stafford and Von Miller, then followed that up by adding Odell Beckham Jr. to a locker room that already included Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey. Oh, and Cooper Kupp just happened to have one of the best seasons for any receiver ever. They have been electric to watch at times this season and are extremely difficult to beat when they are playing at their best.

Credit to them for pushing all their chips to the middle of the table. The point of playing is to win, right?

The two year turnaround for the Bengals has been remarkable and a model every NFL team wishes it could emulate. They have been savvy with their free-agent signings, highlighted by the addition of defensive end Trey Hendrickson this past offseason, and drafted fairly well. Still, though, the biggest impact has been made by the guy wearing number nine.

What Joe Burrow has done in Cincinnati is a testament to how drastically things can change for an organization if they just land the right guy. They went 2-14 the year before drafting him. I had never even seen the Bengals win a playoff game in my lifetime and now they are in the Super Bowl in Burrow’s first career postseason. It feels like a safe bet we will be seeing more of them this time of year over the next decade.

On paper, the matchup seems unfavorable for the Bengals. The Rams will almost certainly look to test a shaky Cincinnati offensive line early and often with their relentless pass rush. Welcome to the Super Bowl, Joe Burrow. You only have Aaron Donald lining up across from you. Everything is fine.

The Bengals defense has shown it can adjust based on matchup and frustrate its opponent. (see: AFC Championship game) Sean Mcvay is one of the most creative offensive minds in the game, so the chess match between the Rams offense and Zac Taylor’s defense may be the deciding factor.

It feels surreal to say that I am picking the Cincinnati Bengals to win the Super Bowl. Yet, here we are. The Rams are playing at home, feature a stacked roster and have one of the best coaches in the league. I know all of this. Here is my rebuttal: Joe Burrow. His team believes in him and so should we.

Bengals 24 Rams 20

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