It all comes down to this.
The Cincinnati Bengals take on the Los Angeles Rams Sunday in Super Bowl LVI, the crowning moment of the NFL season. Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m. on NBC.
The fourth-seeded Bengals are in the midst of an amazing playoff run, winning their last two games on last-second field goals by Evan McPherson. The fourth-seeded Rams are back in the Super Bowl for the second time in three years.
Cincinnati, as every Bengals fan knows, has never won a Super Bowl. The Rams have won just one.
The big storylines surround the quarterbacks. Is the Bengals’ second-year leader Joe Burrow this good, this soon? Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford toiled for years with the Detroit Lions and now has a chance to be a Super Bowl champion.
Remember, sports betting in Ohio is on its way. The Super Bowl will give fans the chance to bet big across the country.
What do the oddsmakers say?
The Rams started as 3.5-point favorites, but that figure has risen to 4.5 at most sportsbooks. Interestingly enough, the over/under figure has gone down from 50 where it started to 48.5 at BetMGM sportsbook.
The Bengals have gone 13-7 against the spread this season – three playoff games and 17 regular-season games. The Rams are 10-10 against the spread. They’re 5-5 both at home and on the road.
That’s the main bet available, but sportsbooks go all-out for Super Bowls. There are prop bets on everything from the coin flip and the number of penalties to how many yards Burrow and Stafford will run and throw for.
The Rams and Bengals have played about as few times as any long-time franchises have in the NFL: Just 14 times. The Bengals lead the all-time series 8-6, but there’s no rivalry here.
The last time they played was in 2019 at Wembley Stadium in England – part of the NFL’s International Series. Jared Goff (now a Detroit Lion) was the quarterback for the Rams. Andy Dalton (now a Chicago Bear) was QB for the Bengals. The Rams won, 24-10.
We could go all-in on the regular-season point spreads, but the postseason is what matters now. In the playoffs, the Bengals have been underdogs twice and favored once. They have covered all three times, and all three games finished under.
The Rams were favored twice. They have covered twice, and two of their three playoff games have finished under the total. So, of the six playoff games for these two teams this season, five have hit the under.
Talking it over/under
In their three playoff games, the Bengals have averaged 24 points and given up 19.7. The Rams have scored 28 points and allowed 16.3.
In the regular season, amazingly, both teams averaged 27.1 points a game. The Bengals gave up 22.1, and the Rams surrendered 21.9.
Looking at the over/under total for the Super Bowl, the Bengals played in 10 games that went over that figure this season. Meanwhile, the Rams played nine.
The X factor
The Super Bowl is unlike any football game these players have been in before. The pre-game ceremony lasts forever, heightening nerves.
The halftime show makes the mid-game break longer and gives players and coaches a chance to rethink strategies and recharge.
The Bengals can play a bit looser. They are young and have that ‘swagger’ thing going on. The Rams went all-in to get here this season, trading for Stafford, star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and linebacker Von Miller.
A close game late would seem to favor the Bengals, because they’ve been in similar spots twice already in the post-season and came through.
The play: Advice on what to bet
First of all, pick a prop bet, any one of them, and have some fun with it. Who will get the first touchdown? Will there be overtime?
Pick a longshot for MVP – Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp has great odds. The Rams seem to match up well with the Bengals. They are better defensively, but Stafford has been prone to making mistakes.
The Rams never seem to pull away from anyone they play. I’m leaning toward taking the Bengals with the points, and the under.