I think it’s fair to say that this isn’t the matchup we expected coming into the season. When sportsbooks initially released their Super Bowl lines, only two teams – the Lions and Texans – had longer odds of winning the Lombardi trophy than the Bengals and you would have yielded a 100-to-one payout or better, had you put money on them. And as of the middle of December, sitting there at 7-6, they were on the outside of the playoffs looking in, among a crowded field of contenders in the AFC. The Rams on the other hand were on the fringe of the top-five in terms of championship odds, but there were some serious doubts about them as well at points, entering December at 7-4 and having a few wins late in the year, which were far from convincing. Yet, these two groups are now set to meet in the big game, knocking off last year’s champs in either conference along the way.
There are a bunch of storylines to follow, such as former Rams assistant and now Bengals head coach Zac Taylor trying to beat his former boss in Sean McVay, Andrew Whitworth facing a Cincinnati team that he was a part of for 11 years and now has a chance to reach the ultimate goal against in his final time on the field possibly at 40 years old, a re-merging superstar in Odell Beckham Jr. meeting the team he suffered a torn ACL against that ended last season for him, two former number one overall picks at quarterbacks trying to outduel each other and even the battle of kickers, with a highly confident rookie and a first-time Pro Bowler, who’s had some issues lately.
Let’s break everything down from a schematic perspective on both sides of the ball, certain matchups to pay attention to and how they may affect the outcome, along with identifying one X-factor on offense and defense for each squad and then coming to a conclusion with a final score prediction.