Who: Cincinnati Bengals (13-7) at L.A. Rams (15-5)
What: Super Bowl LVI
When: 6:30 p.m., Sunday
Where: SoFi Stadium, Inglewood, Calif.
TV/Radio: NBC/700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7
Series history: The Bengals lead the regular-season series 8-6, including wins in three of the past four meetings, but the two teams have not met in the postseason. They last played in 2019, a 24-10 win for the Rams at Wembley Stadium in London. That was the only other meeting between them since the Rams moved back to Los Angeles in 2016. The Bengals were 2-3 against the Rams when they were in St. Louis.
Last game: After the teams traded scores to open the half, Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp caught a 65-yard touchdown on a double-reverse pass to give L.A. a 17-10 advantage going into the break. Cincinnati’s defense held the Rams to seven points in the second half, but the offense struggled and was shut out the rest of the way. Andy Dalton threw for 329 yards and a touchdown, the 197th of his career to tie him with former quarterback Ken Anderson for most in team history, but a second touchdown with eight seconds left was overturned upon review of the catch. The Bengals, who dropped to 0-8, turned to rookie Ryan Finley after the loss and ultimately paved the way for Joe Burrow’s draft. Kupp’s 220 yards receiving tied for the third-most ever allowed by the Bengals.
Postseason history: The Bengals are 8-14 in playoff games, seeking the franchise’s first Super Bowl victory after losing to the 49ers in 1988 and 1981. This is the organization’s first postseason trip since 2015, and they began their run to the Super Bowl by ending an eight-playoff game losing streak that spanned over 31 years. … The Rams are 25-27 in playoff games, and they are headed into their fifth Super Bowl. They won one Super Bowl title during the 2000 season when the franchise was located in St. Louis. The L.A. Rams’ last appearance in 2018, a 13-3 loss to the Patriots, played a factor in Zac Taylor’s hire in Cincinnati. He was a quarterbacks coach on the Rams’ staff that season.
Coaches: Cincinnati’s Zac Taylor is 16-32-1 in three seasons as head coach (plus 3-0 in the playoffs); L.A.’s Sean McVay is 55-26 in five seasons, all with the Rams, and 6-3 in the playoffs.
Bengals notes: The Bengals rank in a tie for seventh with 27.0 points per game, and their 259.0 passing yards per game ranks seventh as well, but the defense has been leading the way in the playoffs. Cincinnati has 11 takeaways in the last seven games, including seven in three playoff games. The last defensive snap in the first two playoff games ended in an interception, and Vonn Bell picked off Patrick Mahomes in overtime to set up the game-winning field goal in the AFC Championship. … The defense went from recording just 17 sacks in 2020 to finishing off 42 sacks in 2021. Trey Hendrickson led the team in the regular season with 14 sacks, and Sam Hubbard added 7.5 sacks. Larry Ogunjobi, who had 7.0 sacks, suffered a season-ending foot injury in the wild card round. … The Bengals bring the fifth-best run defense in the league, allowing 102.5 rushing yards per game. … Cincinnati’s offense has done enough to win games but proved capable of more in Week 16 and 17 when the Bengals combined for more than 1,000 yards. … Joe Burrow threw for a franchise-record 4,611 yards passing and 34 touchdowns in the regular season, while his 70.4 percent completion rate led the league among regular starters. He had 14 interceptions in 16 regular-season games but just two in the playoffs, following a five-game stretch without a turnover. … Joe Mixon’s 1,205 yards rushing in the regular season ranked third best in the league, and he had 13 rushing touchdowns. … Ja’Marr Chase broke Chad Johnson’s single-season receiving yards record with 1,455 yards on 81 catches and he also has 13 touchdowns. He had 22 catches for 20 yards or more in the regular season. … Tee Higgins topped 1,000 yards in his second season, recording 1,091 yards and six touchdowns on 74 catches. … Tyler Boyd has been solid on third down and adds 828 yards and five touchdowns. … Kicker Evan McPherson had his fifth game-winning field goal of the season in the AFC Championship.
Rams notes: The Rams’ biggest strengths statistically have been their passing offense and run defense. … Like the Bengals, they also averaged 27 points per game on offense in the regular season. L.A. ranked ninth in net offense with 372.1 yards per game, including 273.1 passing yards per game, which ranked fifth. … QB Matthew Stafford threw for 4,886 yards (third most in the NFL) and 41 touchdowns (second most). He led the league with 18 passes for more than 40 yards but his 17 interceptions also led the league. … WR Cooper Kupp led the league with 1,947 yards receiving and 16 touchdowns, but Stafford has other weapons in Van Jefferson (802 yards receiving and 6 TDs in 17 games), Odell Beckham (305 yards and 5 TDs in eight games after the Browns released him), Robert Woods (556 yards, 4 TDs) and tight end Tyler Higbee (560 yards and 5 TDs). … The Rams have split carries among their running backs this year when their top two guys have been healthy. Sony Michel has been the starter all year, recording 845 yards and four touchdowns, but Darrell Henderson added 688 yards and five touchdowns in 12 games before suffering a knee injury in Week 16 against the Vikings. He is expected to play Sunday. … L.A. boasts the league’s sixth-best run defense, allowing just 103.2 rushing yards per game, but they haven’t allowed a 100-yard rusher since Week 4. Aaron Donald plays a big role in that as the anchor at defensive tackle, but he also leads the team’s pass rush, which produced 55 sacks (third most in the league). Donald had 12.5 sacks in the regular season and added 1.5 more in the playoffs. Von Miller has 9.5 sacks this season, including 5.0 since joining the Rams midseason in a trade from Denver. Cornerback Jalen Ramsey and safety Taylor Rapp each had four interceptions in the regular season. … Pro Bowl kicker Matt Gay is 41-of-43 on field goals this season and is 14-of-16 on attempts of 40 yards or more.
Quoted: “We’ve got great players, our coaching staff has tremendous cohesion right now and (we have) chemistry. There’s just so much belief back and forth between the players and coaches that this is the type of thing we’re capable of.” -- Bengals coach Zac Taylor
Prediction: Bengals 28, L.A. Rams 21
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