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Sunday, September 24, 2023

Super Bowl LVI: The Daily Cardinal Staff share their picks

The Los Angeles Rams will take on the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI on Sunday evening at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles. A handful of The Daily Cardinal’s writers shared their predictions for the highly anticipated matchup, halftime show and more.

Cole Wozniak

There are times in sports where a guy bursts onto the scene because of a mixture of talent, charisma, and an “it” factor. We see this all the time with generational superstars like Mahomes, Giannis and LeBron, where they just break through and win a title early in their careers because of their transcendent athletic ability. I think Joe Burrow could be one of those guys. That said, he plays for the Bengals. Rams win 28-27.

Justin Alpert

Joe Burrow, unfazed as he might appear, will be running for his life Sunday — if Tennessee’s Jeffery Simmons and Harold Landry made Cincinnati’s offensive line look that inept, imagine what Aaron Donald, Von Miller and co. will do. Los Angeles will need a dominant pass rush because Burrow will work his magic if given the time. Joe Mixon and C.J. Uzomah can be valuable, short-distance targets for Burrow, but not if they’re bogged down in pass protection. 

The Rams have the luxury of Jalen Ramsey, who could make Tee Higgins a non-factor and allow Los Angeles to double or even triple-cover Ja’Marr Chase. The Bengals, lacking an elite, shutdown cornerback, need free safety Jessie Bates to be a superhero if they’re to stand a chance against Cooper Kupp. Even if Cincinnati manages to contain the Offensive Player of the Year, Odell Beckham Jr. and Van Jefferson will enjoy one-on-one matchups against subpar corners. Matthew Stafford will throw for over 300 yards and avoid costly turnovers en route to a 31-21 Rams victory. 

Featuring intriguing teams, vibrant uniforms and a star-studded halftime show, Super Bowl LVI figures to be an excellent TV experience. Viewers should also cherish the legendary play-by-play voice of Al Michaels, who could be calling his final game with NBC. 

Mackenzie Moore

This is the first Super Bowl in my life where I’ll be happy with whoever wins. Either Bengals fans finally get to see their team win its first Lombardi behind their young franchise quarterback or Matthew Stafford gets a much-deserved ring after over a decade of loyalty to an organization that was never close to matching his potential.

That being said, I’d bet the Rams will eke out a close win. Between the Bengals’ struggling offensive line and the Rams’ defense, I’m not confident Joe Brrrr will have enough time to find his receivers. But if the game comes down to an Evan McPherson field goal, the Rams and their several fans should just go ahead and leave the stadium. 

Seamus Rohrer

All football logic says pick the Rams. They have a punishing defensive front led by the great Aaron Donald, and with 50 sacks, the Rams were the third-best pass-rushing team this year. The Bengals, on the other hand, have a porous offensive line that allowed nine sacks in the playoff game against Tennessee. This is just one matchup advantage the Rams seemingly have, but this game will come down to each team’s top-shelf talent. And there’s plenty on both sides. For the Bengals, rookie receiver Ja’Marr Chase set records and torched defensive backs all year. He simply oozes talent and swagger, a true natural at the position. Across the line of scrimmage, he’ll line up against the Rams’ Jalen Ramsey. Ramsey has essentially been a shutdown corner since he entered the league in 2016. He combines his press coverage, physical style of play with a cocky trash talk game that often leaves his mouthguard swinging from his helmet mid-play. The Chase-Ramsey matchup, for however many snaps we see it, will be a blockbuster.

The halftime show, featuring Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre and Kendrick Lamar, as well as Eminem and Mary J. Blige, will be the first Super Bowl halftime show ever to feature hip-hop as the main attraction. The genre has made some cameos but has never been the center of attention. Now, some of L.A’s most accomplished rappers will play the hometown show for halftime. It’s a stark turnaround from what we’d grown accustomed to with the recent pop and classic rock-oriented halftime shows, and it feels a bit forced. Nevertheless, expect a barrage of nonstop classic tracks during the 12-minute performance. Personally, I think  “The Next Episode,” “Rap God” and “Humble” are all locks.

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J.J. Post

What I want to happen: The city of Cincy rejoices. An angel gets its wings as another cursed sports city snaps their streak of pain and gets a trophy to call their own. Joe "Shiesty" Burrow duels it out with the newly-freed-from-Detroit gunslinger Matthew Stafford, with both throwing for 300 yards and three scores as neutral viewers get to watch a shootout for the ages in a back-and-forth competitive affair between two young head coaches representing football's cutting new edge. In a thrilling conclusion, Ja’Marr Chase griddys through the back of the endzone with 10 seconds on the clock as the Bengals prevail.

What I think will happen: Basically what I described above, but with the Rams winning. The Rams have talent across the board (most would probably agree they have more raw talent than the Bengals on both sides of the ball) but their advantage that I think could prove pivotal Sunday is experience. The Rams, and more importantly head coach Sean McVay, have been in a Super Bowl before. They know the stage they're on. The Bengals are a young team with a less experienced coach in Zac Taylor and I think it's more likely Taylor and his squad get bogged down by the jitters of playing in the game of a lifetime than the Rams and McVay.

No matter what happens, as a Giants fan, I just want Odell Beckham Jr. to go off. You were never the problem king. Alexa, play good 4 u.

Donnie Slusher

I believe the Rams are the better football team. WR Cooper Kupp is one of the few players in the NFL who seems truly unguardable. CB Jalen Ramsey is more than capable of completely shutting down any of the Bengals’ star receivers. They are also the beneficiaries of the most glaring mismatch in the game: their defensive front vs. the Bengals offensive line. I’m aware of all of this. But I’m picking the Bengals. I’m picking the Bengals because they are their best when the lights are brightest. They were able to beat the Titans in the Divisional Round despite giving up 9 sacks. They came back from an 18-point deficit against the Chiefs two weeks ago. The Bengals want a street fight. The Rams play their best when they’re able to build up a big enough lead and coast. I wouldn’t count on that.

Predicting and analyzing football games is not only an inexact science, but it can feel like a waste of time. If the Super Bowl is anything like the rest of the playoffs, all supposed advantages and disadvantages will eventually even out and the game will be decided by a few key plays made by a few key players. In a crucial moment, who do you trust? I’ll take Joe Burrow and the Bengals.

Bengals 28

Rams 24 

Drake White-Bergey

Prediction: 24-16 Bengals

Analysis: Joe Shiesty pulls it off.

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