This season has gone by in a flash, but boy, it has been one of the most memorable yet. It seems just yesterday I was driving home from work when I got a number of text messages all at once telling me that Matthew Stafford was going to be a Ram. After an offseason that felt like an eternity, everything appears to have come full circle as the Los Angeles Rams prepare to take on the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI.
In a season that has seen LA add Stafford, Von Miller, and Odell Beckham Jr. to its roster, you would think that the Rams had one of the most unpredictable seasons—yet lining up across the field from them is a third year head coach in Zac Taylor and a second-year quarterback who has just now officially played his first complete season in the NFL. The Bengals were 4-11 last season, and 2-14 the year prior. No one saw this coming.
Yet here we are, on the final stage of the 2021-2022 season. A year that has seen new legacies started and old legacies end. Two teams stand to tell the tale and both have an opportunity to write their own scripts. As football fans, this is what we have been waiting for. An unpredictable season will come to an end, will the final game live up to its hype? Here are my bold predictions for the Super Bowl.
Kupp for MVP, take two
No one, and I mean no one, could have predicted the type of season that Cooper Kupp would have this year. The triple-crown winner is just one game away from completing his near-perfect season at the receiver position and what better way to do it than to finish as the Super Bowl MVP—and according to DraftKings Sportsbook, he has the third best odds to do just that.
He may have been snubbed when it came to the MVP award that was presented in the NFL honors, but offensive player of the year is a mighty fine consolation prize for the league’s best receiver. The selfless play-maker has his sights elsewhere, however. Kupp will be a participant in his first Super Bowl in his career after suffering an ACL tear in the 2018 season that kept him on the sidelines when the Rams took on the New England Patriots. After fighting to get back, all the hard work has finally payed off for the savvy route runner.
The last time the Rams & Bengals squared off was from London in 2019 and Cooper Kupp had a career high 220 receiving yards. Kupp is having a legendary season + post season. All together he’s amassed 150 receptions, 2333 receiving yards, and 20 TDs. 1 more to go #SBLVI pic.twitter.com/SW7wBRr6p0— RAMS ON FILM (@RamsOnFilm) February 5, 2022
Kupp was absolutely phenomenal in the regular season, but he has been even better in the playoffs. In the three games leading up to the Super Bowl he has 386 yards receiving, four touchdowns, and two of the most memorable catches of the post season that set up two game-winning field goals. The fifth year veteran has set records for the most receiving yards and most receptions by a pass-catcher in a single-season including the playoffs, and broke Michael Irvin's record of 100+ games in a single-season with 13—he has a chance to make it 14 come this weekend.
I believe Kupp’s last game of the season will play out like most of the matches prior—the Bengals will have no answer for him despite all their best efforts. There is not a single person watching the game that does not know where the Stafford is trying to get the ball, yet time and time again we are asking ourselves how is he always open? My prediction: he will find plenty of space against Cincinnati and put together a MVP effort in the Super Bowl.
If I were a betting man, I’d be taking the over in this one
The last time that McVay took his team to the Super Bowl proved to be his most embarrassing defeat in his career. A 13-3 loss to the Patriots in 2018 will forever stain his resume as he continues to build his legacy in the league, but he has a chance to make it slightly fade away in memory this weekend. The roster that features Stafford, Kupp, Odell Beckham Jr., Van Jefferson, and Cam Akers is the best mixture of talent he has ever had.
On the opposite side of the field will stand McVay’s prodigy. Zac Taylor has taken a team that once was consistently trapped in the cellar of the AFC into a worthy Super Bowl contender in just three seasons. Much of his success can be predicated on first overall draft pick, Joe Burrow.
Accompanying Burrow is one of the best receiving corps in football with electrifying and talented fifth overall pick Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd—oh, and let’s not forget underrated running back Joe Mixon headlining the backfield. Like the Rams, Cincinnati can hurt a defense on multiple levels with a slew of talent all over the field.
Ja'Marr Chase: Highest graded rookie WR against both man and zone coverage this season— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) February 9, 2022
Man: 89.3 grade
Zone: 80.1 grade pic.twitter.com/1LsP0GbYMB
The shear firepower on the offensive side of the ball is a spectacle enough to believe that neither defense will be able to contain their opposition, leading to a high-scoring game. Draftkings currently lists the over at 48.5 points, and if I were a betting man I’d take that in a heartbeat. My prediction: both teams will have success on offense and easily cover the over bet.
NBC shows off SoFi stadium a little too much
SoFi Stadium is the crown jewel of the NFL and its creation has made Los Angeles the head quarters of the league. The six-billion dollar spectacle features some of the most advanced technology to ever be placed in a stadium, including a full 360 “oculus” video screen that was created with 80 million pixels. It’s glass dome not only allows the California sun to light up the field, but it also acts as a jumbotron at night.
This year’s Super Bowl will be the biggest event hosted at the stadium since its creation, but in six years that will likely change when it hosts the 2028 Summer Olympics.
A global audience will collectively have an opportunity to marvel at the football temple that is SoFi Stadium and NBC has the responsibility to do it right—but at what point does it become too much? Will they go an aerial view before every commercial break? After every quarter? How many times do they show the stadium in the pre-game? Post-game? My guess would be a lot, and if anyone wants to make a bet hit me up in the comments. My prediction: NBC shows an aerial view of SoFi during Sunday’s game 10 times.
Stafford has more touchdowns, but Burrow has more yards
Two quarterbacks will make their debut in the Super Bowl this season—for one it will be just his second season in the NFL in an organization that has failed for so long to get back to the championship game, and the other is a 13 year veteran that had been deserted on a cursed Detroit Lions island up until this year. Burrow has been the rescuer of sorts for Cincinnati and Stafford has been the rescued—on Sunday both will take the field and attempt to write their legacy.
Burrow has already lived up to his first overall draft pick expectations in just his second year in the NFL. He finished with 4611 yards passing and 34 touchdowns to 14 interceptions and threw for over 400+ yards three times in the regular season. His most stat-crazy game came against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 16 where he threw for 525 yards and four touchdowns. His numbers have not been as godly in the playoffs as he has averaged a respectable 280 yards per game and has thrown four touchdowns in the three game stretch.
Stafford has played some of his best football in the playoffs. He has thrown for 905 yards and six touchdowns to just one interception in his three post-season games. He finished the regular season with 4886 yards passing and 41 touchdowns to 17 interceptions. Just a year removed from the Lions organization, Stafford has a chance to change his legacy with a Super Bowl win.
The battle of two first overall-picks will feature two quarterbacks in very different points of their careers, but one single goal in mind this weekend—win. With Burrow proven to be able to put up some exaggerated passing yards in games this season, and Stafford consistently finding the end zone in the playoffs, the matchup between the two could be legendary. My prediction: Stafford throws for more touchdowns, but Burrow has more passing yards.
Ramsey gets a pick, but Chase goes off for 100+
There will always be many that will argue that the Bengals first round draft pick this season should have been spent on a quality offensive lineman to help keep Burrow off the turf, but it is hard to argue the connection between Burrow and his college receiver. Chase has been a problem for the opposition. Like Kupp, he is at times inevitable. The rookie receiver put up a ridiculous 1455 yards in his first year and was named the offensive rookie of the year during the NFL honors.
TRUE VALUE— Jalen Ramsey (@jalenramsey) February 11, 2022
GOD BLESS pic.twitter.com/PBXXUr3Mo1
He has not had to play against the likes of Jalen Ramsey, however. There will be plenty of matchups to watch on Super Bowl Sunday, but no more entertaining than what could partake between the veteran defensive back and the rookie wide receiver. Will Ramsey be able to get inside his head? Will Chase get the better of Ramsey?
Regardless of who trumps who, Ramsey will play the role as ball-hawk more than ever after dropping a game-sealing interception in the Conference Championship.
(0:55) “I’ll be critical on myself... I dropped a pick today, crazy, right?” Ramsey explained after the win against the San Francisco 49ers, “like right in my hands too. So I was mad about that for a little bit but we won so I don’t even really care no more. I mean, I was saving it really. That’s what I’m gonna go with. I was saving it for in two weeks.”
Defensive coordinator Raheem Morris has put Ramsey in a “star position” which utilizes the uber-talented defender everywhere on the field, but on the NFL’s biggest stage Ramsey will likely be on Chase as much as possible. I believe that Burrow is confident enough in his talent that he will attempt to get the ball to his favorite target even with Ramsey in coverage. My prediction: Ramsey gets an interception, but Chase goes for 100+ yards.
Aaron Donald sets the NFL record with four sacks in a single Super Bowl
One of the biggest headlines going into the Super Bowl is the matchup between the Rams star-studded defensive line and the Bengals lack-luster offensive line. Though they found a way to win against the Tennessee Titans in the divisional round of the playoffs, the line surrendered an eye-popping nine sacks. They improved the following week against the Kansas City Chiefs and only allowed a single sack the entire game, but there were still times that Burrow was running for his life.
The true test for the Bengals comes in the final week of the season—and it comes in the form of Aaron Donald.
After throwing Jimmy Garoppolo like rag-doll at the end of Divisional Championship to force an interception and secure a win, Donald will be looking to wreak havoc once again in what may be the most important game of his life. The three-time defensive player of the year has the ability to take over the game if the Bengals cannot find ways to stop his relentless rush—and honestly, they might just not have the personnel to do it.
AARON DONALD AND A PICK. Jimmy G turns it over and the Rams are Super Bowl bound pic.twitter.com/udgIphbwp9— Pub Sports Radio ™ (@PubSportsRadio) January 31, 2022
The current record for sacks by a player in a Super Bowl is a four-way tie between Grady Jarrett, Kony Ealy, Darnell Docket, and Reggie White with three. I believe that record will be broken on Sunday. Donald has all the accolades, their is a true belief that he is the greatest defender to ever play the game, and there in no better stage to prove all of it than the Super Bowl. My prediction: Donald finishes the game with four sacks, setting a new Super Bowl record for sacks by a single player.
The halftime show will be one of the best in history
While their are plenty of stars on the field to watch, the halftime show might be even more star-studded. This year will feature an extraordinary cast comprised of Eminem, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar, and Mary J. Blige. Their stage of course is SoFi stadium.
Michael Jackson was the first star to perform at the Halftime Show which put an end to the marching band era. (1993)— Alim (@ItzPHSavageWolf) February 9, 2022
In 2022, MJ’s halftime performance still ranks #1 as the most viewed halftime show at 133M live viewers. pic.twitter.com/WfMbxwXIGE
There have been legendary performances from likes of Prince, Michael Jackson, Beyoncé, Janet Jackson, and U2, but they have never had a stage as complex as the one that will be played on this year. SoFi Stadium has been perfectly tailored to the Super Bowl experience, that includes putting together a halftime show of epic proportions.
Reporter: 'How do y’all prepare for one of the biggest performances of your careers?'— NowThis (@nowthisnews) February 10, 2022
Dr. Dre: ‘We know what Snoop does’
— Who’s ready for the Super Bowl LVI Halftime Show? pic.twitter.com/PBZI2rzxe4
What happens following the second quarter might be unpredictable except to those who helped design the intricate stadium. My prediction: this year’s halftime show ranks as the best to ever been done.