The 2021-22 NFL season will conclude on Sunday night when the Rams and Bengals square off at SoFi Stadium. Los Angeles (15-5) advanced to the Super Bowl with wins over Arizona, Tampa Bay and San Francisco during its playoff run. Cincinnati (13-7) has won all three of its games by single digits, beating Las Vegas, Tennessee and Kansas City.
Rams looking for Super Bowl win at homeLos Angeles made a run to the 2019 Super Bowl, but this season’s run has been different in every aspect. The Rams had Jared Goff under center that year—he had an atrocious performance in the big game and then had several poor seasons after that. They went out and traded for Matthew Stafford this past offseason. He went 31 of 45 for 337 yards and two touchdowns in the NFC Championship, helping Los Angeles overcome a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit against San Francisco. Stafford has recorded two touchdown passes in each of his three playoff games this season, completing 72 percent of his attempts along the way. His top target all year has been wide receiver Cooper Kupp, who led the NFL in receiving yards during the regular season.
Kupp combined with wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. for 20 receptions and 255 receiving yards in the win over San Francisco. The Rams finished the regular season ranked ninth in the NFL in team offense, averaging 372.1 yards per game. They were without running back Cam Akers for the first 16 games of the season, but he returned from an Achilles injury just in time for the playoffs. He will be facing a Cincinnati run defense that is fifth in the NFL, allowing just 102.5 yards per game. The Bengals have not been nearly as good in the secondary, ranked No. 26 in passing yards allowed.
Bengals trying to complete the storyCincinnati has been an excellent story to follow throughout the season. It started with the return of second-year quarterback Joe Burrow, who had his rookie season cut short by a season-ending knee injury. The Bengals drafted wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase in the first round of the NFL draft—he was teammates with Burrow during LSU’s national title season in 2019. Chase has gone on to set the franchise record for single-season receiving yards, pulling off explosive plays in almost every game. The Bengals have put together several late drives to advance in the playoffs. Rookie kicker Evan McPherson has made four field goals in each of the three postseason contests.
Cincinnati’s defense has stepped up as well, holding its opponents to just 19.7 points per game during the playoffs. The Bengals allowed three straight touchdown drives in the AFC Championship, but they did not allow another score until a field goal at the end of regulation. They have covered the spread in seven straight games, including a 5-0 record against the spread as underdogs. The only outright loss during that stretch came in Week 18 against Cleveland, but Cincinnati was resting its starters. The Bengals will be facing a Los Angeles defense that finished the regular season ranked sixth in the NFL, allowing 103.2 yards per game.