The much-anticipated Super Bowl 56 showdown between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Los Angeles Rams Sunday at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles is being billed as the proverbial David vs Goliath clash by the media and the punditocracy. But is it really the case of a mismatch of epic proportions? If the NFL odds were any indication, the answer is a resounding no, surely.
Cincinnati Bengals vs Los Angeles Rams Game Preview
Rams The Faux Goliath
When did the Los Angeles Rams morph into the proverbial Goliath because yours truly didn’t get that memo?
Yes, the Rams clinched the NFC West division title (with some effort). Yes, they defeated the defending Super Bowl champions (barely) in the Division Round. And, yes, they’re through to Super Bowl LVI, underscoring their favorable preseason odds at the sportsbook exchange. But all that doesn’t make them the league’s Goliath.
The Rams are a good team, but they’re not the greatest team in the league by any stretch of the imagination. The word Goliath is synonymous with giant, behemoth, mammoth, colossus. When applied to a team, it gives the impression of infallibility. Of a team that is indestructible or insurmountable.
Do the Rams spring to mind when these nouns and adjectives are trotted out? The simple answer, no.
This isn’t a slight against the stars contained within Los Angeles’ camp. On an individual level, Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp, Odell Beckham Jr., Aaron Donald, Von Miller, Jalen Ramsey … la, la, la … all bring enviable talent and quality to the table.
Still, the Rams did struggle against the likes of the San Francisco 49ers in the regular season before finally beating their division rivals in the NFC title game. Coach Sean McVay’s star-studded cast also struggled against the Tennessee Titans (a team the Bengals beat in the Division Round), the Green Bay Packers, and the Arizona Cardinals.
If the betting online markets for Super Bowl 56 were any indication, then the 4-point spread that’s currently trading hardly screams Goliath. If the Rams were really the behemoth that some media analysts and experts would have them to be, then surely the betting markets would have rolled out a more appropriate NFL line for this game. At the least, one would expect to see a touchdown line in the case of a so-called mismatch. No?
Studies have been done to determine the merit of home-field advantage in the NFL. At one point, it was assessed to be worth a field goal (or thereabouts). For the sake of argument, if this theory is applied to the current market for SBLVI between the Bengals and Rams at SoFi Stadium, then the real value of the Rams’ odds would be -1 (the four-point spread less the home field advantage (4 – 3 = 1)). Does that scream Goliath?
— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) February 12, 2022
None of this means the Rams can’t win this game. On the contrary, they have every opportunity to do just that. The issue here is the narrative which doesn’t fall in line with the NFL odds that paint a much closer game than most would appear to be expecting.
Bengals Aren’t Cinderella
The conversation by NFL analysts, experts and pundits surrounding the Cincinnati Bengals seems to be focused on all the reasons why the Bengals cannot win on Sunday. Few, if any at all, reasons are being presented for why the Bengals could emerge victorious. This has led to an impression of a Cinderella team going to Super Bowl 56.
Forget what the Bengals did last season or the years before the advent of Joe Burrow. When looking at the product they put forward in 2021, there’s nothing Cinderella-ish about them. They’re the AFC North champions, after all. They’ve taken the measure of several good teams in the league, and advanced through the postseason with a verve and swagger of a team that firmly believes it deserves to be playing for the NFL championship.
Heck, Burrow & Co. have repeatedly maintained that they’re not surprised about their achievements, fully expecting to be here, and, frankly, they’re tired of not being taken seriously.
Weaknesses in the offensive line, Joe Burrow’s sack record and the team’s youth and general inexperience are some of the many reasons that are being touted to detract from Cincinnati’s merit. And yet, despite all these glaring concerns, the Bengals are merely a sleep away from Super Bowl 56.
To suggest the Bengals reached this vantage point by accident would be grievously irresponsible. Coach Zac Taylor’s side didn’t have an easy path to the Super Bowl and had to go through the top two seeds in the AFC on the road, including the two-time defending AFC Champions Kansas City Chiefs.
— NFL GameDay (@NFLGameDay) February 10, 2022
Burrow may be a second-year quarterback, but his poise, focus and maturity belie his short NFL career. He’s no stranger to winning either. Burrow won the Heisman Trophy and the National Championship at LSU during his college years. A Lombardi Trophy would mark an unprecedented triple crown victory that would propel Burrow into another stratosphere.
There is no shortage of rising-star power on the Bengals roster with rookie Ja’Marr Chase leading the charge. However, the Bengals are less about the individual and more about the team – as epitomized by their “Who-Dey” chant that has become an unofficial franchise anthem among Cincy fans.
Cincinnati Bengals vs Los Angeles Rams Betting Trends
Los Angeles went through the postseason as the favorite save for the Divisional Round when they beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 30-27 to come through as the 2½-point underdogs. The Rams improved to a 15-5-0 straight up (SU) record and 10-10-0 record against the spread (ATS). As home favorites, the Rams are 6-3-0 SU and 4-5-0 ATS.
Cincinnati upset the Tennessee Titans 19-16 in Nashville to come through as the 4-point road underdogs for NFL picks against the spread. Then they stormed back from an 18-point hole to upset the Chiefs 27-24 in overtime at Arrowhead Stadium. The win saw the Bengals come through as the 7-point underdogs and improve to an overall 13-7-0 ATS record. They also improved to 5-2-0 SU and 6-1-0 ATS as an away underdog.
Cincinnati Bengals vs Los Angeles Rams Predictions and Picks
Perception dictates the Los Angeles Rams are the smart bet to win Super Bowl 56. On paper, they have the home-field advantage, the stars, the advantage in skill positions, the head coach that is making his second Super Bowl appearance in three years and the market’s backing.
But, there’s one teeny, weeny detail – and don’t worry if you missed it, only the keenest eye for detail would have noticed it. That is, games aren’t played on paper. They’re played on the field.. And when the Cincinnati Bengals take to the field, they seem to defy logic and reason time and time again.
Joe Burrow has gone public with his swagger: the Cartier shades, the drip and the gold chains. But there's something about Burrow that comes across as a kid who's not naturally cool, like he still has a little nerd mixed in. It's endearing.pic.twitter.com/Rc5ngDf0Wt
— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) February 11, 2022
The Bengals weren’t expected to beat the Chiefs once, never mind twice this season and to come from behind to do it no less. All these so-called flaws that are being cited as reasons why the Bengals can’t win haven’t cost them or derailed them in any way. After all, Burrow was sacked nine times by the Titans only for the Bengals to win.
There’s an unshakeable tenacity, determination and will about this Bengals team – about Burrow himself – that makes them believable.