SPORTS

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February 10, 2022

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9:08 p.m.

Rams, Bengals Set to Battle in Super Bowl LVI

You can attach whatever narrative you like to Super Bowl LVI. For one, it is the battle of two quarterbacks who are former first overall picks. Joe Burrow was picked first in the 2020 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals. Matthew Stafford was taken by the Detroit Lions as the first overall pick in the 2009 Draft. After making the playoffs with the Lions just three times through his first 12 seasons in the league, Stafford is preparing to lead the Los Angeles Rams into the biggest game of his life. The Rams took a risk trading so many valued assets for Stafford, but they are one game away from confirming it as being the right move.

Yet despite the 11-year difference between both quarterbacks being drafted, the newcomer Joe Burrow may be the more accomplished player between the two. There is no doubt that Stafford had a successful run at his alma mater, the University of Georgia. He went 3–0 in bowl games, received many individual accolades, and was the most prized prospect in his draft class. Joe Burrow, however, is a legend in the making. In the last three years, Burrow has won a national championship at LSU, gotten drafted first overall, torn his ACL, returned to the league, and won every NFL playoff game he’s ever played in. Of course, his next playoff game is the Super Bowl.

The quarterbacks may be the main storyline, but they are not the sole reason why these teams are where they are. For one, the coaches in this matchup are two of the brightest young stars in the coaching world. Rams coach Sean McVay is set to coach his second career Super Bowl at the age of 36. On the other sideline is Zac Taylor, who is part of McVay’s coaching tree. He was the quarterbacks coach for the Rams in 2018 before being hired by the Bengals in 2019. Taylor is the second youngest head coach in the league behind McVay, at 38. If McVay’s Rams win the Super Bowl, he will become the youngest coach in league history to win the Super Bowl. If Taylor’s Bengals pull out the win, Taylor will have to settle for second on the list, trailing Mike Tomlin, who won the Super Bowl at 36 years, 323 days old.

From a Chicago perspective, there are a couple of names to look out for. Wide receiver Mike Thomas, a Chicago native, will be on the field for this matchup. He primarily contributes on special teamsbutdoes occasionally see the field on offense in sets with four wide receivers. Apart from Thomas, two Rams players are from nearby Illinois cities. Center Brian Allen was born in Hinsdale,and fellow offensive lineman David Edwards is from Downers Grove.

One interesting note is that neither the Bengals’ roster nor the Rams’ roster contains a former Chicago Bear. The Bengals have built a large part of their core through the draft, so this should not come as a surprise. Quarterback Joe Burrow, wide receivers Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, and running back Joe Mixon were all drafted by Cincinnati during their rebuild and have been the primary contributors to the Bengals’ high-octane offensive attack that got them to the Super Bowl. The Rams, on the other hand, built muchof their team through trades and free agency. Over the past few years, the Rams have become known for acquiring stars at a discounted rate. This includes the likes of cornerback Jalen Ramsey, edge rusher Von Miller, wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., and quarterback Matthew Stafford. It does come as a bit of a surprise that no former Bears will be playing in the big game this year.

Bears fans should be encouraged by this Super Bowl, regardless of the outcome. The Bengals and the Rams are proof that there is no one way to make it to the Super Bowl. With incoming head coach Matt Eberflus taking over a talented, young roster including quarterback Justin Fields, there is hope that the Bears could take a massive leap next season. In the meantime, enjoy watching what promises to be an exciting ending to one of the best postseasons in recent memory.

Super Bowl LVI begins on February 13 at 5:30 p.m. CT and can be watched on NBC or Peacock.