We’ve come to the final game of the 2021 season. The Los Angeles Rams, playing in their home stadium, face off against the Cincinnati Bengals for the NFL championship on Sunday.
It’s a Super Bowl not many expected, not even at the beginning of the postseason. The Rams were relatively unimpressive down the stretch, eking out close wins over non-playoff teams and losing four out of five to fellow playoff teams from Week 9 onward. The Bengals finished an uninspiring 10-7, winning the AFC Central only because everyone else fell apart.
Both have proven the cliche that any team in the playoffs can get hot and win it all. Cincinnati certainly heated up, knocking off the Raiders at Paul Brown Stadium before going on the road and upsetting the top-seeded Titans and then the two-time defending AFC champion Chiefs. Los Angeles pounded the fading Cardinals in the most lopsided game of the postseason. Next came a stunning win over the defending champion Bucs in Tampa Bay, followed by a hard-fought home win over the division rival 49ers.
It sets up what should be a really compelling game. The Rams are all-in on winning now. Trading for Matthew Stafford and Von Miller, signing Odell Beckham Jr. and putting all their eggs in Sean McVay’s 2021 basket has brought them to the precipice of ultimate victory. It will be a disappointment if they don’t win.
The Bengals are here earlier than expected. Joe Burrow is in just his second season, with primary target Ja’marr Chase a rookie. Lower-key offseason moves brought in Trey Hendrickson and Larry Ogunjobi, good players but not stars. It hasn’t mattered lately because of Burrow’s heroics and one of the best-coordinated defenses in the league gelling at the right time.
It’s that defense, helmed by DC Lou Anarumo, that leads me to believe the Bengals will win. They have fewer vulnerabilities to the opposing offense than the Rams defense does against Burrow and the Cincinnati offense. Los Angeles has the premium talents in Aaron Donald, Miller and Jalen Ramsey, but the rest of the defensive core doesn’t stand out. Super Bowls seem to always come down to someone unexpected making a big play at a critical time. I trust the role players on the Bengals more than I do the Rams’ cast. Having kicker Evan McPherson helps keep the thumb on the scale in favor of Cincinnati, too.
Bengals 27, Rams 22
The Super Bowl is proof you can pretty much bet on anything. Some of my favored props and how I lean on them. Note that I do not recommend wagering any money you cannot afford to lose on some of these frivolities, but if you’ve got the bankroll, have some fun…
Odell Beckham Jr. over/under 65.5 receiving yards: Under
Aaron Donald over/under 1 sack: Over
Joe Burrow over/under 277.5 passing yards: Over
QB with most completions: Stafford
QB with most passing yards: Burrow
Joe Mixon over/under 60.5 rushing yards: Over
First TD: Van Jefferson
National Anthem over/under 1 minute and 39 seconds: Under
Will any scoring drive take less time than the anthem: Yes
Which song gets played first during the halftime show: Lose Yourself
Which song gets played last during the halftime show: California Love
Will a player do the “Ickey Shuffle”: I really hope so!
Will the broadcast show Joe Burrow smoking a cigar: No
Enjoy the game!