The Rams were said to have an easy pass through the NFC conference after their NFC West divisional rivals - the San Francisco 49ers - took down the presumptive favorite Green Bay Packers. Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay had ended LA’s playoff campaign the year before, and this is a hurdle they still haven’t cleared. The Rams also faced Jimmy Garoppolo in the championship game, but ultimately his shortcomings proved insurmountable for San Francisco.
The Buffalo Bills were the hot team in the AFC last year, but the Kansas City Chiefs were able to right the ship with only 13 seconds remaining on the clock and send Josh Allen and company home. For whatever reason the Bengals match up well against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs, and this was the first game in a trend that just won’t die (or at least it hasn’t yet).
Joe Burrow and the Bengals were the Cinderella team whose story didn’t end when everyone thought it would. They weren’t supposed to win the AFC Championship game at Arrowhead Stadium (now commonly referred to as “Burrowhead”) - they should have been happy to just make the playoffs and to win a game. Sure, the NFL is a league of parity, but you’re not supposed to go from drafting in the top five picks to earning a berth to the big game.
“We’ll see y’all in Burrowhead”— Luke’s Locks (@LocksWithLuke) January 26, 2023
Burrow’s arrival in Cincinnati has transformed the Bengals franchise.
It was a massive surprise to see them battling for a world championship a year ago, and it’s still surprising to see them back at Burrowhead a game away from the Super Bowl in 2022. Zac Taylor’s team has morphed from perennial bottom dweller to being on the verge of a potential dynasty seemingly overnight - and there’s really no telling where things go from here.
The narratives surrounding the Rams’ win over the Bengals in 2021 have changed dramatically in only 365 days, so how will we think of this game in five years?
Could we look back and say that Aaron Donald and the Rams held back the birth of a dynasty? Perhaps we will see Los Angeles and the Bengals dual on football’s biggest stage once more before players like Donald, Matthew Stafford, Bobby Wagner, and Cooper Kupp hang their cleats up for good.
The bottom line is that the Bengals continued dominance is good for the Rams, and them continuing to win makes LA’s world champion seem better and better by the day.