The NFL’s biggest game will be played Sunday.
Even though the Eagles are not in Super Bowl LVI, your SI Fan Nation EaglesToday writers are logging in with who we think will win, and three reasons why.
Prediction: Rams 27, Bengals 20
4 Reasons Why:
Rams defensive line. With Aaron Donald, it figures to eat. It’s more than just the best defensive tackle in the league putting up sacks, though. Donald had 12.5 in the regular season, but Von Miller and Leonard Floyd each put up 9.5. As a team, the Rams finished third in the league with 50 sacks.
The Titans sacked Joe Burrow nine times in the Division Round. Yes, Burrow found a way to win the game. Asking him to do that twice, is too much of an ask, especially against a team that will get to him more than once. My guess would be five times.
Jalen Ramsey. Wherever uber-talented rookie Ja’Marr Chase goes, I would expect Ramsey to follow. Like the Rams’ D-line, L.A.’s pass defense is more than just Ramsey. They tied for the league-lead in interceptions with 19.
Cooper Kupp. The WR has been unstoppable all season. The Bengals won’t be the first team to do it, either. In the 17-game regular season, he had 145 catches for 1,947 yards and 16 touchdowns. In the three playoff games leading up to the Super Bowl, he had a combined 25 catches for 386 yards and four scores. Unstoppable.
Coaching. Sean McVay was in the Big Game just three years ago, and it’s a pretty safe bet his offense will find a way to get more than three points it put up against a very good New England Patriots defense in Super Bowl LIII. The Bengals don’t have the kind of defense the Patriots had that day.
Meanwhile, Cincinnati coach Zac Taylor was McVay’s QB coach in that Super Bowl game. No doubt he learned a thing or two about preparation. Still, rarely does it go well for the pupil against his teacher.
Prediction: Bengals 33, Rams 30
4 Reasons Why:
Joe Burrow. Maybe it’s apropos that “Tom Terrific” finally called it a career just as the latest reincarnation of “Joe Cool” is ramping up and in his first Super Bowl.
It’s silly to expect Burrow to win seven Super Bowls like Tom Brady but just like Joe Namath and Joe Montana before him, Burrow has an opportunity to become the third quarterback in history to win a consensus college football national title and a Super Bowl.
The 2020 No. 1 overall pick out of LSU is already set to become the first quarterback ever drafted first overall to start a Super Bowl within his first two seasons. In other words, winning follows Burrow.
Offensive playmakers. Everyone knows about Ja’Marr Chase, one of the most explosive rookie receivers ever with a special connection with Burrow that dates back to their time together in Baton Rouge but even if All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey is able to slow the big-play threat abilities of Chase the rest of the Rams’ back seven, which isn’t exactly Ramsey-like from a talent perspective, will have its hands full.
Darious Williams has to deal with perhaps the best WR2 in the NFL, Tee Higgins, Rams nickel CB David Long has to slow down an excellent slot receiver in Tyler Boyd, and Eric Weddle, who was retired until the postseason will be tasked with an impact seam threat in tight end C.J. Uzomah, who is on-line to play despite an MCL sprain in the conference championship against Kansas City.
On top of all of that is an excellent running back led by Joe Mixon.
The Bengals arguably have the best skill-position group in the NFL from top to bottom.
Trey Hendrickson. The Rams pass-rush generates all the headlines due to the presence of future Hall of Famers Aaron Donald and Von Miller but don’t be surprised if the best at generating pressure on Sunday is Hendrickson, who finished with a career-high 14 sacks this season after coming over as an impactful free agent from New Orleans.
Hendrickson is one of only two NFL players, along with NFL Defensive Player of the Year T.J. Watt, with at least 13 sacks in each of the past two seasons.
As talented as Rams QB Matthew Stafford is, he will take chances and Hendrickson will have an opportunity to affect the game.
Evan McPherson. There are two great kickers in this game but the Rams’ Matt Guy has been leaking a little oil in the postseason while the rookie McPherson has been absolute money. In a one-score game where a kick wins it, McPhearson is the guy you want right now as long as Justin Tucker isn’t around.
The “Can’t-Miss Kid” is 12-of-12 in postseason field-goal attempts, which is the NFL record for most field goals made without any misses in a single postseason. Meanwhile, McPherson’s 12 combined 50-plus yard field goals in the regular season and playoffs is also an ongoing league record heading to the Super Bowl.
Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Fan Nation EaglesToday and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles or www.eaglestoday.com and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.
John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com’s EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John, alongside legendary sports-talk host Jody McDonald every morning from 8-10 on ‘Birds 365,” streaming live on both PhillyVoice.com and YouTube. John is also the host of his own show “Extending the Play” on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at [email protected] or on Twitter @JFMcMullen