We all watch football. It is the greatest game in the world. But do we know what we are actually watching?
Inside of a single game, there are a series of matchups that help determine the overall outcome. Super Bowl LVI is no different despite the fact that it is the biggest football game in all of the world.
In this article, I will break down the key matchups inside Super Bowl 56 that you should be watching out for There is a good chance that they will be the difference in a win for the Cincinnati Bengals or a loss for the Los Angeles Rams.
All NFL gameday odds are current as of 10:30 a.m. ET on Friday, February 4.
How To Identify Key Super Bowl Matchups
When looking at the most important Super Bowl matchups, bettors need to focus on a mix of the teams’ on-field personnel, recent form, season-long history, injury implications, and coaching battles.
Let’s get something straight: I am all-in on the Bengals at this point. While I didn’t pick them to win before the 2022 NFL Playoffs began, I did have them in the AFC Championship game losing to the Chiefs. However, once they got there, I did pick them in an article I wrote here at The Game Day.
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The Rams might be the better team on paper, but the Bengals are hotter and are playing with house money. In theory, the Bengals are not supposed to be here.
Meanwhile, the Rams paid up for Matthew Stafford, Jalen Ramsey, Von Miller, and Odell Beckham Jr.; among others through the years.
The Rams were also a team many viewed as one of the best in the NFL at times in 2021. All the pressure is on them, while the Bengals have found their stride with their offensive and defensive improvements.
Of course, the obvious place to point toward is the quarterback duel: Stafford vs Joe Burrow. We’ll go into that below, but while that could simply be this entire article, deeper Super Bowl positional battles in the trenches and in 1-on-1 player showdowns could be vital in deciding this NFL Championship Game.
Super Bowl Matchup: Rams Offensive Line vs Bengals Defensive Line
Everybody will be talking about the Rams’ pass rush against the Bengals’ offensive front, but I believe the bigger matchup is Cincinnati’s pass rush against the Los Angeles offensive line.
We already know that Aaron Donald and company will make Burrow’s life more difficult. But it’s worth noting that Burrow has already been sacked 12 times in three postseason games — including a whopping nine times against the Titans — and still managed to win each one.
Also, if you watched the AFC Title game against the Chiefs, Burrow looked like Tony Romo out there with the way he was evading defenders. Sure, the Rams will bring one of the best pass rushes in the NFL, but the Bengals’ defensive front should not be slept on.
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The Bengals recorded the ninth-most sacks (42) in the regular season. Their rush led by Sam Hubbard and Trey Hendrickson can and will bring it. And while the Rams only allowed Stafford to be sacked the sixth-most times (31), their line is not impenetrable.
In fact, Cincinnati sacked Patrick Mahomes four times in the AFC Championship game and gave up fewer sacks than the Rams in regular-season play. Like their quarterback, the Bengals’ pass rush is on fire.
If the Bengals’ pass rush can get to Stafford and make him uncomfortable, he will make mistakes. We have seen it throughout his career and even at times in 2021.
If Hubbard, Hendrickson and company reach Stafford, there is a good chance they will finish the job and take him to the ground.
Betting Pick: Bengals Over 1.5 Sacks (-150) at Caesars
Wager: 1 Unit
Super Bowl Matchup: Joe Burrow vs Matthew Stafford
Joe Burrow versus Matthew Stafford is one of my favorite Super Bowl 56 matchups. It is hard to ask for much more in terms of quarterback duels.
Stafford has been in the NFL since 2009. After 13 years, he’s finally reaching the pinnacle. Stafford had been buried in Detroit, but he is battled-tested and had to deal with plenty of adversity with the Lions.
Then there is Burrow, who is a different kind of battle-tested. Although this is only his second year in the NFL, he’s already a proven winner.
It was just two years ago that he won the National Championship with LSU. The National Championship is the Super Bowl of college football. The spot is not too big for him.
While we know Burrow is a big-game quarterback, he had to deal with some adversity of his own. In his rookie year, he suffered a season-ending knee injury. He came back from it in a huge way, leading the Bengals to a Super Bowl.
Nothing seems to phase Burrow. He is cool, poised, and believes he can win every snap and every game.
Stafford however, is another story. He has a history of making mistakes in big spots and it won’t get any bigger than the Super Bowl. The pressure is on Stafford and he will feel it. Could you imagine having to deal with the media scrutiny he will face if he comes up short and the Rams lose, especially if he throws a pick or two?
In the end, one of these quarterbacks will cost their team the game. My money is on Stafford to be that guy.
Betting Pick: Matthew Stafford Over 0.5 Interceptions (-160) at Caesars
Wager: 1 Unit
Super Bowl Matchup: Bengals Secondary vs Rams Wide Receivers
The Bengals’ defense has had its ups and downs this season. While they have defended the run better of late, their weakness is in their secondary, which plays right into the Rams’ hands.
After all, when you have contend with Odell Beckham Jr., Cooper Kupp, Van Jefferson, and Cam Akers, even terrific secondaries will have their issues, not to mention a unit that ended the regular season ranked 26th in passing yards surrendered per game.
The Bengals must find a way to contain the Rams’ pass-catchers. While it might seem impossible, it isn’t. Just ask the Chiefs.
I know, I know, the Chiefs lit up Cincy’s secondary in both games they faced them in the first half.
Both times the Bengals squared off against the Chiefs’ high-octane passing attack this season, Kansas City lit Cincy’s defense up in the first half, only to be shut down in the second.
How did they do that? Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo played a significant role, making the necessary halftime adjustments to get things right.
When it comes to top defensive minds in the NFL, Anarumo’s name is not the first one that comes up like a Dan Quinn or Todd Bowles. However, Anarumo’s defense has been a big part of the Bengals’ Super Bowl run.
In their final seven games (including playoffs), Anarumo’s defense has held opponents to fewer than 21 points in five of those games, including three games in the teens.
In two out of three playoff games, the Bengals’ defense has held their foes to fewer than 19 while holding the Chiefs to 24 on Championship Sunday.
If Anarumo and the Bengals’ defense can hold the Rams to fewer than 21 points, they will be housing the Lombardi Trophy as the victors of Super Bowl 56.
Betting Pick: Rams Under 26.5 Points (+105) at Caesars
Wager: 1 Unit