The 2021 NFL season lasted 18 regular season weeks along with three weekends of playoffs, and now it all comes down to this -- Super Bowl LVI.
It'll be the Cincinnati Bengals and the Los Angeles Rams duking it out for eternal glory at SoFi Stadium on Sunday. Each of these No. 4 seeds has clawed through the gauntlet to get a chance to hoist the Lombardi Trophy. The Bengals find themselves trying to win the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history after a playoff path that included beating the No. 1 seeded Titans and then the Chiefs at Arrowhead in the AFC Championship. Meanwhile, the Rams needed to slay Tom Brady and the defending champion Buccaneers along with the San Francisco 49ers to get in this position.
Both teams are worthy champions of their respective conferences, but there can only be one that earns a Super Bowl ring. Below, you will find who I am backing in the Super Bowl and a breakdown of that choice.
All NFL odds via Caesars Sportsbook.
Locks of the Week ATS: 50-36-4
Los Angeles Rams "at" Cincinnati Bengals
Time: 6:30 p.m. ET (NBC)
Location: SoFi Stadium (Inglewood, Calif.)
The Bengals have been a fantastic Cinderella story throughout these playoffs and are an extremely likable club with all their young faces. That said, I do think we're about to strike midnight on this run. A big reason why I'll be laying the 4-point spread and backing the Rams is thanks to a clear mismatch between Los Angeles' pass rush and the Bengals' offensive line.
In the AFC Championship win over the Chiefs, it was encouraging to see that Burrow was only sacked once, but he was still under siege for a majority of that game. According to Pro Football Focus, Burrow was under pressure on 40.5% of his dropbacks and completed just 57.1% of his throws on a 5.6 yards per attempt average. As you'd expect with any quarterback under pressure, those so-so numbers are largely consistent with what we saw in the regular season as well. During the year, he was pressured on 33.3% of his dropbacks and completed 60.9% of his throws. Against the Rams, PFF's top-graded pressure team in the NFL this season, Burrow will likely need to make use of his legs to keep the Bengals afloat offensively.
With the combination of Aaron Donald and Von Miller rushing the passer and the likes of Jalen Ramsey in the secondary making Burrow hold the ball longer and go through his progression, I have my doubts that the Cincinnati O-line will be able to fend them off for four quarters.
While this isn't a traditional home game for the Rams (actually considered the visiting team), the fact that this is being played at SoFi Stadium should play to their advantage. They are 7-3 straight up at home this year (including playoffs) and while they are just .500 ATS at SoFi Stadium, they have an average margin of victory of 7.3 points. That would get us to comfortably cover the spread in this game.
Projected score: Rams 28, Bengals 23
The pick: Rams -4