A recap of the NFL playoffs before Super Bowl LVI

Photo courtesy of All-Pro Reels, Wiki.

An amazing season of football comes to a dramatic finish this Sunday when the Cincinnati Bengals and the Los Angeles Rams face off for the Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl LVI. Hosted at SoFi Stadium, this will be the second time in a row that a Super Bowl team will play in their home stadium. But even with a unique home field advantage, can the Rams bring home the gold? 

The Los Angeles Rams doubled down this season on building a Super Bowl roster. It all started with a surprise trade on Jan. 30, 2021, when the Rams traded their quarterback Jared Goff, two first-round picks and a third-round pick to the Detroit Lions, who in exchange gave them Matthew Stafford. Stafford is a veteran in the league, having played in the NFL since 2009. 

Despite being in the league for so long, Stafford never won a playoff game during his entire stint with the Lions. Now on a winning team who was just a quarterback away from winning it all, Stafford is finally getting the chance to get a Super Bowl ring.

Along with Stafford, the Rams brought some more All-Star caliber players to the team through the regular season, which only added to their Super Bowl promises. In November of 2021, after a dramatic and public exit from the Cleveland Browns, former wide receiver of the New York Giants Odell Beckham Jr. signed a deal with Los Angeles. Von Miller, former linebacker of the Denver Broncos, was traded to the Rams for a draft pick as well. 

Both proved to be a match made in heaven, as Beckham became an integral part of the offense due to the injury to Robert Woods, and Miller worked alongside the stacked defensive power of Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey, creating a dangerous triple threat on the defensive side of the ball. 

Beckham has already had better stats in Los Angeles than he did in Cleveland. In nine games, he has had 52 targets, five touchdowns and 359 yards. Beckham had zero touchdowns in Cleveland this season prior to getting released. Von Miller has piled up four sacks since joining the Rams as well. 

All of this sounds mighty fine for Rams, who are a 4.5-point favorite against their AFC contender, the Cincinnati Bengals. But if there’s one thing about the Bengals, it is that they have defied the odds and proved everyone wrong about how talented they truly are. 

No one would have ever picked the Bengals to win their division, let alone beat the top two teams in the conference on the road in the playoffs in the Titans and the formidable Kansas City Chiefs, who were the favorites this season to go to Los Angeles and win it all. But they did. A lot of it has to do with their quarterback, Joe Burrow, who was last year’s first overall draft pick. A gruesome leg injury in November of 2020, which ended his rookie season, put the Bengals in a frenzy and killed the rest of their season. 

This year, Burrow’s teammate from LSU, Ja’Marr Chase, was reunited with his former quarterback when the Bengals drafted him. That, along with Burrow making a remarkable comeback, helped push the Bengals to new heights. 

Their offense has looked sharp, with running back Joe Mixon rushing for over 1,000 yards, and Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd adding some extra hands in the receiving core. Burrow has 4,611 passing yards this season and 34 touchdowns. The Bengals’ defense has been nothing to shy away from, either. 

Picking off Titans’ quarterback Ryan Tannehill three times helped them with the upset in the divisional round. Being able to stop Patrick Mahomes with the game on the line helped Burrow and the offense punch their ticket to LA for a chance to win their very first Super Bowl. Their last shot at one was back in 1989. 

Super Bowl LVI is going to be electric and is definitely going to come down to the wire, as both quarterbacks have proven to make late fourth quarter comebacks this season. Who will hoist the Lombardi Trophy? Who will win the Super Bowl MVP? All will play out this Sunday.