Who will take home this season's Lombardi Trophy? It'll be the Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals kicking off Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium in just a few hours on Sunday and it's poised to be one of the more entertaining games that we've seen in quite a while. Both of these clubs beat the odds and reached the Super Bowl as the No. 4 seeds in their respective conference, which is just the latest piece of evidence that anything can happen when you get into the NFL playoffs.
In the spirit of expecting the unexpected, we've come up with a trio of bold predictions for the big game that are worth keeping an eye on -- and possibly even placing a wager on.
Rams punter Johnny Hekker throws a pass
Rams All-Pro punter Johnny Hekker has the reputation of being an all-around special teams weapon for Los Angeles and we're expecting to see that on full display in Super Bowl LVI. Hekker attempting a pass on a fake punt isn't something totally out of left field as he's done it 23 times throughout the course of his career, including once back in Week 10 against the San Francisco 49ers.
Here's a look at a Hekker fake punt pass from back in 2019:
In most Super Bowls, teams are seemingly always willing to empty the playbook to give themselves the best chance of winning a Lombardi Trophy (ex. The Philly Special in Super Bowl LII). After all, it's not like they can save it for next week.
Ja'Marr Chase breaks rookie receiving record
Bengals star receiver Ja'Marr Chase has already created quite the name for himself throughout his rookie season and has shattered the record books. Coming into Super Bowl LVI, Chase has broken the Bengals' franchise receiving yards record for a season, has the most receiving yards in a rookie season in NFL history (including playoffs), and is the youngest NFL player with multiple 100-yard receiving games in a single postseason.
That last record has Chase in line for even more history as he steps into this Super Bowl against the Rams. This postseason, Chase is averaging 93 yards receiving which puts him in the territory of possibly breaking the Super Bowl receiving yards record by a rookie. That is currently held by former Seahawks receiver Chris Matthews (Super Bowl XLIX) and Rams great Torry Holt (Super Bowl XXXIV) who both totaled 109 yards receiving in the big game as rookies.
In these playoffs, Chase already has two performances that have either tied or surpassed that total, so it's certainly in play for him on Sunday, and we expect he'll do it with a couple of impact plays for Cincinnati.
Aaron Donald wins Super Bowl MVP
I am picking the Rams to beat the Bengals in this game, but I'm also going with a long shot to win MVP -- Aaron Donald. The Rams' star defensive lineman currently owns the sixth-best odds to win Super Bowl MVP at +1800 at Caesars Sportsbook, which makes sense given that he's a defensive player and these awards are typically given out to those on the offensive side of the ball and specifically the quarterback. However, Donald is a clear mismatch for the Bengals' mediocre offensive line and can wreck the game on his own.
As a team, the Rams were the top-graded pressure unit in the NFL and the Bengals O-line just allowed Joe Burrow to feel pressure on over 40% of his dropbacks in the AFC Championship. I expect that lackluster play upfront to continue with Cincinnati, which opens the door for Donald to have a multi-sack game and put himself on the inside track for Super Bowl MVP.