February 13, 6:30 pm ET, SoFi Stadium, Inglewood, CA
Los Angeles- 4 Seed (NFC West) 15-5 overall
Cincinnati- 4 Seed (AFC North) 13-7 overall
Why Los Angeles will win-
For the second straight year the NFC Champion will host the Super Bowl. Last year turned out well for the Buccaneers who dominated Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs 31-9 at Raymond James Stadium. WR Cooper Kupp has been virtually unstoppable in the playoffs catching 25 passes for 386 yards and 4 touchdowns in 3 games. Kupp and the offense will now get a crack at the Bengals secondary which gives up 248 yards per game through the air ranking 26th in the NFL. The Rams formidable pass rush led by LB Von Miler and DT Aaron Donald should be licking their chops against a vulnerable Cincinnati O-line that ranks 30th in the NFL in sacks allowed. Bengals star TE C.J. Uzomah, suffered a knee injury against Kansas City and how effective he will be remains a question. Just about every game so far this postseason has come down to a field goal and K Matt Guy has been one of the league’s best converting of 39 of 43 on the year.
Why Cincinnati will win-
Cincinnati went into Tennessee and knocked off the top seed in the AFC Divisional Round. They followed that up a week later by overcoming an 18 point first half deficit in one of the toughest venues in all of the NFL to defeat the 2 time defending AFC Champion Chiefs. Going into SoFi Stadium and beating the Rams shouldn’t feel all that daunting for this young and confident Bengals team. Much of the attention gets put on second year star QB Joe Burrow and rightfully so, however, it has been the defense that has come up big for Cincinnati in its run to Super Bowl 56. Defensive Coordinator Lou Anarumo deserves a ton of credit helping his unit holding Mahomes and the explosive Chiefs offense to just 3 points in the second half. The defense has 6 interceptions and 8 sacks in their 3 playoff games so far. The Rams offense will be without TE Tyler Higbee (knee). If the game is close late the Bengals have a pretty confident K as well in Evan McPherson who is coming off back to back game winning kicks.
Key to the Game-
Can the Bengals O-line protect Burrow? The last time the Bengals faced a similar caliber pass rush was against Tennessee who sacked Burrow 9 times. Cincinnati must find production in the run game with RB Joe Mixon to keep the offense out of 3 and long passing situations where the Rams pass rush can thrive.
Eye Test Analytics Predicted Score- Los Angeles by 4.08 points