It is set. Super Bowl 56 at SoFi stadium in Los Angeles will be between the Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Rams. The Bengals have completely exceeded expectations following a 4-11-1 season in 2020, going 10-7 in 2021 and are representing the AFC. The Rams finished their 2021 season 12-5, went all-in on getting players like Matthew Stafford, Von Miller, and Odell Beckham Jr. as well as overcoming their losing streak against the San Francisco 49ers to represent the NFC. Both teams have some of the best players in the NFL at their positions and with that, it creates some very interesting matchups to pay attention to.
Ja’Marr Chase vs Jalen Ramsey
The Bengals with their first-round pick in 2021 did not go with Penei Sewell and instead drafted wide receiver, Ja’Marr Chase. There were discussions for months on if this was the right choice or not, well with Chase helping the Bengals get to the Super Bowl that answer is clear now. Chase and Joe Burrow reconnected as Chase in 2021 had 1,455 receiving yards over 81 receptions and 13 touchdowns. In the AFC Championship game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Chase had six receptions for 54 yards and one touchdown, that touchdown was his first postseason touchdown as teams have done a better job double-teaming him.
Now, it’s Jalen Ramsey that will be covering Chase. Ramsey, during the regular season, only allowed a 59.2% completion percentage for 624 yards. Over the three playoff games, he has allowed only a 47.4% completion percentage for 123 yards. Both Chase and Ramsey are regarded as the top players at their positions in 2021, so who comes out on top will be interesting to see.
Mike Hilton vs Cooper Kupp
Cooper Kupp had a spectacular season after instantly creating a connection with Matthew Stafford, the connection went on to Kupp leading the NFL in receptions, yards, and touchdowns. Kupp had 1,947 yards in the regular season with 846 coming after the catch. Over the three playoff games, he has 25 receptions for 386 yards and four touchdowns. The Bengals head coach Zac Taylor happens to know Kupp well as he was the guy playing quarterback for Kupp at his private workouts during the draft process. Taylor also was Kupp’s assistant wide receivers coach when Kupp was drafted to the Rams in 2017.
It will most likely be Mike Hilton, the Bengals 2021 free-agent addition from the Pittsburgh Steelers, covering Kupp. While Hilton did allow a 71.8% completion percentage during the regular season he limited the receivers to only 653 yards and four touchdowns. Over the three playoff games, he has allowed only a 53.3% completion percentage for 90 yards and zero touchdowns. If Hilton can keep up his postseason success, this matchup on Kupp becomes very intriguing.
Trey Hendrickson vs Andrew Whitworth
This matchup has a storyline to it. Andrew Whitworth, who is now the left tackle for the Rams, didn’t start off there. For the first 11 seasons of his career he was with the Cincinnati Bengals, and for the last five seasons of his career he has been with the Rams. Over the course of the 2021 season, he has been phenomenal protecting Stafford only allowing six pressures over 600 snaps and no sacks.
Now he will be facing his former team in the Super Bowl and will have to defend against the Bengals 2021 free agent standout, Trey Hendrickson. On the season Hendrickson had 45 pressures and 14 sacks which led the team, and in the last game against the Chiefs he had four pressures and 1.5 sacks. Both Hendrickson and Whitworth play will largely impact the outcome of this game.
The Quarterbacks vs Defensive Pressure
Joe Burrow and Matthew Stafford are the quarterbacks in this matchup and will be facing dominant defensive fronts. For Burrow when he gets pressured he has a 94.6 passer rating which is the third best in the league. He will be facing a Rams defensive front that has gotten pressure on quarterbacks 161 times. On that front it is Aaron Donald who has gotten the most pressure with 41 and converted that pressure into 12.5 sacks, followed by Leonard Floyd who has 37 pressures and 9.5 sacks. Although Burrow has been sacked 63 times in total, he has been pressured 178 times and still has thrown for 5,453 yards and 38 touchdowns.
Over the season Stafford has taken 35 sacks and has been pressured 125 times and thrown for 5,791 and 47 touchdowns. When teams blitz Stafford that’s when he is able to find success, but when teams just pressure him with their front is when his passer rating dips to 63.4. This plays into the advantage of the Bengals defense as they have pressured quarterbacks 196 compared to blitzing 163 times. With how successful both defensive fronts have been, the quarterback that can withstand the pressure will be the one that leads their team to the win.
There are plenty of players that will have an important impact on the outcome of this game, but these are the important matchups to watch! Make sure to tune in to the Super Bowl to see how these matchups play out.
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