The Bengals may be underdogs but they still have a good shot at upsetting the Rams in Super Bowl 56.
When the NFL playoffs began, few expected the Cincinnati Bengals to still be here on Super Bowl Sunday. Snapping a 32-year postseason win drought seemed like a reasonable bar to clear but few gave Cincinnati a chance to win on the road against Tennessee and Kansas City, the AFC’s top two seeds.
The same can be said for the Super Bowl, where the Rams are early favorites against Cincinnati due to a significant advantage in the trenches. That deficit, particularly in terms of Cincinnati’s offensive line, can be problematic but there are still plenty of reasons to back the Bengals in the big game.
Joe Burrow’s clutch performance can lift the Bengals to victory
This postseason has been primarily about the emergence of 2020’s top overall pick, Burrow, as a star quarterback. Burrow hasn’t had to put up outstanding passing numbers in any postseason game but he has demonstrated remarkable poise under pressure to help guide the Bengals down the field to set up the winning field goals in each of the past two rounds.
Other players may have more physical ability than Burrow, such as fellow 2020 draftee Justin Herbert, but Burrow has that “it” factor that helps define winning quarterbacks. As long as Burrow is on Cincinnati’s side you can’t count out the Bengals.
The Bengals have a big edge in the kicking game
Special teams are a factor that cannot be discounted in any NFL game, let alone the Super Bowl, and the Bengals have a huge edge in the kicking game thanks to rookie Evan McPherson. The rookie kicker has risen to the challenge of pressure kicks in the postseason, nailing four field goals in each of Cincinnati’s playoff wins, including the game-winner in each of the past two rounds.
The Rams have kicking questions with Matt Gay, who has the leg to make any kick necessary but has missed some notable kicks already in the postseason. In a game where points could be precious, the Bengals have to feel very good about having McPherson on their side.
The Bengals’ defense is an underrated unit
While most of the attention will be focused on Burrow and his stellar wide receivers, Cincinnati’s defense has plenty of talent as well. Defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo made some key adjustments in the second half of the AFC Championship Game, dropping eight men into coverage 45 percent of the time to help limit the Chiefs to just three points the rest of the way.
The defensive line is a particular strength for the Bengals, who have pass-rushing ace Trey Hendrickson on the outside while run-stuffing defensive tackle D.J. Reader can help control the middle of the field. Free safety Jessie Bates is also a star in the making in the secondary and helped set up the key interception in overtime thanks to stellar coverage on Tyreek Hill, making this unit a hidden gem for Cincinnati.