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Chris Berman is back for his Swami Sez NFL selection for the Super Bowl LVI between the Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals.
Odds lent by Caesars Sportsbook.
After 54 years in which no team has played in the Super Bowl at their home stadium, we now have two in a row, with the Rams hosting the 56th edition of the Big Game.
It’s not a classic home advantage, not just because the Rams have a “new” fan base returning to LA in 2016 after 21 seasons away from home in St. Louis. Louis, but also because it’s only the first year with fans at the new stadium.
So the Rams do not yet have a fanatical home fan base, but want to play in their own locker room, so that counts for something, right?
A matchup that not many of us saw coming has fascinating stories. The Rams are packed with big NFL names that fans have known for the last decade … Donald, Stafford, Miller, Beckham, Ramsey, Floyd. The Bengals is a blank canvas with young players like Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase.
The Rams built the team’s preseason and over the course of the season in a way that hasn’t really worked in the past. “All-in” has not led to Super Bowl championships. One could say that Tampa Bay did a bit last season, but not in the same way that Brady, Gronk and others came on board in the low season and they had time to work together. Normally, the method Rams used does not come to fruition, but perhaps not this time.
We know the list. Matthew Stafford, heralded in off-season trading. Von Miller, you won a Super Bowl in Denver. Odell Beckham Jr., arrived in the middle of the season with a lot of fanfare to add the homemade talent of Hall-of-Famer-to-future Aaron Donald, one of the biggest names in the game.
We’re here on the world’s biggest stage, and it seems to have worked. Meanwhile, perhaps the best story is just that Stafford, after mid-season missteps that included several pick-sixes at national primetime matches, has turned it around. I was always a fan of him when he was with the Lions, keeping his mouth shut, doing the best he could with what he had in Detroit and never complaining. I’m happy on his behalf, the whole of Detroit is happy on his behalf, and now City of Angels is in it. Attaboy, Matt.
Along the way, the Rams stumbled upon a home-grown, unannounced wide receiver in the Cooper Coup, who put together one of the best seasons ever and achieved the triple crown of receiving. Rams come in as a known amount. They are finally what they have been advertised to be.
The Bengals come, yes, out of nowhere. Right in front of the garage door, but they made themselves completely deserving of getting on the big stage. The most impressive thing about Cincy’s race is that no moment has become too big. Maybe it’s talking about what Burrow has shown by example – he changed the culture of the Bengals – or maybe it’s because Burrow and others have played on the biggest college stages and did not get stage fright at the time either.
They stared down at a 21-3 deficit late in the second quarter away from defending AFC champions Chiefs, only to surpass them 24-3 to win the match in overtime, but they also did the same a month earlier Chiefs team. We can not overlook the fact that Burrow was fired nine times in a playoff game the week before away against top-seeded Tennessee and still won!
Not only do Burrow and rookie kicker Evan McPherson apparently have ice in their veins, but they also appear to have the ability to have offensive explosions, as they have shown in several other halves when needed. Equally important for this big match were the two playoff games with lower scores vs. Raiders and Titans.
The names of the defense are not primarily known, but defensive ends Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard, middle linebacker Logan Wilson and safeties Vonn Bell and Jessie Bates III are really good players.
Another area where they have traditionally been weak for years now was special teams. Not anymore.
This points to a close Super Bowl from two different varieties of ice cream. Two different degrees of freshness: Cincy’s first appearance on this scene since the late ’80s. vs. The Los Angeles Rams, who have never won a Super Bowl in LA
Someone wants a “first” victory Sunday night. How will it turn out? After all of us wondering how special the division and conference rounds were giving us two of the best weekends ever, how could it not go on and on?
What can tip the balance … Rams’ defensive wall against an average Cincy line who did a good job vs. Chiefs, but the defensive front at Donald & Co. is another challenge. This time, it’s Rams Pro Bowl kicker Matt Gay’s battle-winning kick on familiar grass to give the “home team” an exciting victory.
Swami Sez: Rams 27, Bengals 24