Bengals vs. Rams: 5 charts breaking down Super Bowl LVI
The 2020 season was absolutely brutal for the NFL. Not only did the league have trouble filling seats during the pandemic, but TV viewership also declined. In total, league revenues plummeted 20% in 2020—erasing nearly five years of growth.
But the turnaround is already in the works. A big reason why is the league’s unusually competitive playoffs this year. For the first time ever, all four games in the divisional round were decided on the final play of the game. The conference championship round didn’t disappoint either. Nearly 48 million viewers tuned in to watch the Cincinnati Bengals beat the Kansas City Chiefs in overtime, and 50 million watched the Los Angeles Rams close victory over the San Francisco 49ers. The latter was the most viewed conference championship game since 2016.
The NFL front office certainly hopes Super Bowl LVI, featuring the Bengals and Rams, sees a similar viewership boost. Last year, the Super Bowl (Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Chiefs) garnered 92 million eyeballs—marking the smallest audience since 2006. Prior to last year, the NFL had hit over 100 million viewership in 10 of the past 11 Super Bowls.
If a Super Bowl ratings rebound comes, the NFL will have to do it on Sunday without some of its biggest brands. For the first-time since 2016, neither quarterback’s Tom Brady nor Patrick Mahomes II will be in the big game. The Rams are led by 13-year veteran QB Matthew Stafford, while the Bengals offense is managed by second-year QB Joe Burrow. This will be the first Super Bowl appearance for both Stafford and Borrow. In fact, very few players on either roster have played in the game before.
What should viewers expect from the Bengals and Rams? To help football fans prepare for the match-up, Fortune created a few charts highlighting the teams’ strengths and weaknesses.
Don’t expect a run fest on Sunday.
Both the Bengals and Rams feature high-powered offenses. But it isn’t because of their run games. On the season, the Bengals have racked up 1,742 yards on the ground (ranking No. 23 in the NFL) and the Rams have totaled 1,683 rushing yards (ranking them No. 25). That pales in comparison to the 2,715 rushing yards put up by the Philadelphia Eagles.
But that doesn’t mean the defenses won’t have to respect the ground game. Bengals running back Joe Mixon was voted to the Pro Bowl on the AFC side. His 13 rushing touchdowns this season was only bested by Jonathan Taylor, Damien Harris, and James Conner. Meanwhile, the Rams have a balanced rushing attack that features both Sony Michel and Cam Akers.
Super Bowl LVI will feature two of the NFL’s premier passing attacks.
On the season, the Stafford led Rams racked up 41 touchdowns through the air. That was only bested by Tom Brady’s 43 passing touchdowns for the Buccaneers. Not far behind is the Bengals and their 36 passing touchdowns (No. 7 in the league).
A big reason for Stafford and Burrow’s respective aerial success is simply the talent they’re throwing to. The Ram’s receiving corps features Cooper Kupp (who racked up 1,947 receiving yards this season), Van Jefferson (802 receiving yards), and Odell Beckham Jr. (537 receiving yards). While the Bengal’s passing attack features Ja’Marr Chase (who totaled 1,455 receiving yards this season), Tee Higgins (1,091 receiving yards), and Tyler Boyd (828 receiving yards). One could argue these are the best two receiving corps in the NFL. After all, on Thursday Kupp took home the AP Offensive Player of the Year award while Chase won AP Offensive Rookie of the Year.
The wildcard? Stafford led the league with 17 interceptions this season. He’ll be facing a red-hot Bengals defense that has snagged six interceptions this postseason.
The Rams are really good at putting opposing QBs on the ground. Only the Pittsburgh Steelers and Minnesota Vikings notched more sacks than the Rams this year. It all starts with Aaron Donald, who led the team with 12.5 sacks this season. He’s arguably the greatest defensive tackle in NFL history. But the three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year isn’t the only Rams rusher the Bengals need to worry about. Edge rushers Von Miller (who totaled 9.5 sacks on the season) and Leonard Floyd (9.5 sacks) are also good at taking QBs down.
The Rams talented pass rush certainly creates a problem for the Bengals. On the season, the Bengals offensive line allowed a staggering 55 sacks. Only the Chicago Bears and Baltimore Ravens allowed more sacks.
The silver lining for the Bengals? They’ve continued to find ways to win even when they haven’t kept Burrow off the ground. Look no further than the divisional round when the Tennessee Titans sacked Burrow nine times. Nevertheless, Burrow was still able to put up 348 passing yards against the Titans and lead the team on a fourth-quarter game-winning drive.
Unlike the Dallas Cowboys or Pittsburgh Steelers, the Rams and Bengals don’t have massive national fanbases. But that isn’t stopping people from picking a side.
If searches on Google are any indication, there will be a bit of a West (Rams) vs. East (Bengals) rivalry this weekend. It also looks like much of the fanbase of the Detroit Lions, where Stafford played for 12 years, will be bandwagoning with the Rams. While many folks in Louisiana, where Burrow and Chase played college ball as LSU, will be riding with the Bengals. Just don’t ask them for their thoughts on Cincy’s Who Dey chant.
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