Rams vs. Bengals: Initial Betting Odds, Favorite, Preview for Super Bowl 56

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistJanuary 31, 2022

Rams vs. Bengals: Initial Betting Odds, Favorite, Preview for Super Bowl 56

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    Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

    The matchup for Super Bowl LVI has been set, and it's probably not one many fans predicted before the start of the 2021 NFL season.

    The Los Angeles Rams' presence in the big game doesn't come as a surprise. When L.A. acquired quarterback Matthew Stafford during the offseason, it wasn't hard to peg the Rams as a title contender. The Cincinnati Bengals are a different story.

    The Bengals had a promising young quarterback in Joe Burrow. However, he was coming off a torn ACL, and Cincinnati was coming off a four-win season. The Bengals also play in the AFC North, a division that sent three other teams to the playoffs in 2020.

    Burrow has not only proved himself to be healthy this season, but he's also shown himself to be one of the best signal-callers in the entire league.

    The Rams—who will play in their home stadium in two weeks—come in as the early favorites. However, there's no reason to think that Burrow and the Bengals cannot continue defying expectations.

    Here's everything you need to know heading into perhaps the most surprising Super Bowl matchup in recent memory.

Super Bowl LVI Game Information and Odds

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    Jason Behnken/Associated Press

    Super Bowl LVI

    Date: Sunday, February 13

    Time: 6:30 p.m. ET

    Location: SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California

    TV and Live Stream: NBC, Peacock

    Line: Los Angeles -4

    Over/Under: 48.5


    Odds via DraftKings Sportsbook

Underdogs No More

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    After beating the top-seeded Tennessee Titans in the divisional round, Burrow made it clear that Cincinnati should not be viewed as a novelty.

    "I'm tired of the underdog narrative," Burrow told reporters. "We're a really, really good team. We're here to make noise."

    To be fair, the Bengals are once again underdogs, at least according to Vegas. But, will anyone be surprised if Burrow, Ja'Marr Chase, Trey Hendrickson and the rest of the new-look Bengals come into L.A. and pull off another upset? No one should be.

    In two straight weeks, Cincinnati has gone on the road and knocked off the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds in the AFC. Burrow dramatically outplayed wunderkind Patrick Mahomes in crunch time Sunday, and Cincinnati's defense has continued to make game-changing plays.

    The victories over Tennessee and Kansas City came after a defensive interception set up kicker Evan McPherson for the game-winning field goal.

    Then, there's McPherson, the rookie kicker out of Florida with ice in his veins. The fifth-round pick has gone a perfect 12-of-12 on postseason field-goal attempts and will have a chance to break Adam Vinatieri's postseason record of 14 in the Super Bowl.

    "That's definitely something we’re going to shoot for," McPherson told reporters.

    Cincinnati has arrived as one of the best teams in football in all three phases. While the early line says the Bengals are four-point underdogs, the Rams would be foolish to come in believing that they're definitely going to win.

Past Games Don't Matter

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    While the Bengals are the darlings in this matchup, Los Angeles faced its fair share of adversity to get here. Like Cincinnati, L.A. came in as a No. 4 seed. To advance to the Super Bowl, the Rams had to beat a San Francisco 49ers team they haven't defeated since 2018.

    In the NFL, though, past games don't matter much. Rams coach Sean McVay made sure that his team know it coming into Sunday.

    "Our guys genuinely knew, hey, we're familiar with this opponent, but the previous six games where we didn't find a way to finish have nothing to do with what's going to occur at 3:30, or 3:40 when we kicked this thing off," McVay told reporters. "Those are separate entities. And our guys did a great job of being able to compartmentalize."

    Los Angeles now has two weeks to put Sunday's game in the rear view and prepare for Cincinnati. Beating the Bengals won't be easy, but the Rams are equally loaded with talent.

    Stafford, Cooper Kupp, Odell Beckham Jr. and Cam Akers form the core of a potent offense. Aaron Donald, Von Miller and Jalen Ramsey form the foundation of an aggressive and capable defense. While L.A. ranked a modest 15th in points allowed, it amassed 50 sacks and 19 interceptions during the regular season.

    The Rams defense can wreak havoc in the backfield and take away the football. Stafford can go throw-for-throw with Burrow. Whether the Super Bowl becomes a defensive struggle or a shootout, the Rams are equipped to do battle.

Familiarity Will Be Key

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    Emilee Chinn/Associated Press

    While the Rams don't know the Bengals like they know the 49ers, there will be plenty of familiarity in this Super Bowl matchup—which will make for several critical chess matches within the game.

    The biggest reason for this is that four years ago, Bengals coach Zac Taylor was serving as McVay's quarterbacks coach with Los Angeles. Taylor is quite familiar with many of L.A.'s top players. McVay will be familiar with Taylor's tendencies.

    There may not be any real animosity between the two.

    "I love Zac Taylor;I'm so happy for him. I think that team plays with a swagger and confidence similar to the way Zac carries himself," McVay said, per Kelsey Conway of the Cincinnati Enquirer.

    However, a mental war may be waged between the two head coaches that ultimately decides the outcome.

    There will be plenty of other matchups critical to the contest. Can the Rams' pass rush exploit a Bengals offensive line that allowed Burrow to be the league's most-sacked quarterback (51) in 2021? Can the Bengals secondary confuse Stafford as it did Mahomes in the second half Sunday? Can Ramsey lock up with Chase and win one-on-one?

    Talent alone isn't going to win the Lombardi Trophy, and whoever wins the proverbial games-within-the-game is likely to come out on top. The players on the field will be fun to watch, but the coaches on the sideline will be just as important.

    The fact that McVay and Taylor know each other well only adds further intrigue to this year's Super Bowl matchup.

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