Here we are, the moment of truth. We have three contestants still alive in our playoff pick ‘em, but before we get to them…
A lot of people have asked me who I like in the Super Bowl. In turn, I’ve asked a lot of people that same question. I imagine all those people wouldn’t be asking my opinion if they knew my record picking games this post-season. To call it sub-par would be generous.
All things considered I like… wait for it… the Rams.
As difficult as it is to wager against Joe Burrow and those scorching hot Cincinnati Bengals, I’m about to list the reasons why I am going to put my hard-earned money (how much, I don’t know yet) on the Los Angeles Rams to cover the four-and-a-half points and win Super Bowl LVI.
Experience – Not enough can be said about what it’s like going into the big game and, more annoyingly, the two media-frenzied weeks that precede it. The Rams have the more experienced head coach, Sean McVay, who has been here before and lost. He’s hardly about to waste another opportunity. On the defensive side of the ball, they have a former Super Bowl MVP in Von Miller who will undoubtedly be coaching the rest of the Rams defense into what it takes to a) win this game and b) handle the pressure that comes along with it. And while neither of the two quarterbacks starting in this game have been here before, the starting quarterback for the Rams, Matthew Stafford, has been waiting a hell of a lot longer for this moment than young Joe Burrow. Stafford has thrown about 6,000 more NFL passes than the QB he’ll be facing. In these games, experience matters. While it’s not unprecedented for a second-year quarterback to win this thing (four have done it in their second season, Burrow would become the fifth), I may be in the minority, but I foresee Stafford playing a cleaner game. Edge: Los Angeles.
Home field – One can make the argument that L.A. football fans are flighty. This is a big reason franchises come and go from the area like cars leaving the Santa Monica freeway. This year, the Rams become only the second (consecutive) team to play the Super Bowl in their home stadium, which is odd considering prior to last year, it had never happened before. I’m not too sure Rams fans in attendance will outnumber the Bengals fans who have been waiting since the 1980s to get back here. The Rams, however, have been sleeping in their own beds and will be dressing in their own locker room for the biggest game of their lives. That will grant them a bit of nerve-calming normalcy when they hit SoFi on Sunday, convincing them this is just another football game when that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Edge: Los Angeles.
Looks and lines – Raise your hand if you’re scared of Aaron Donald. The Los Angeles Rams front seven ran right through a pretty beat up Buccaneers offensive line but one that, despite its injuries, was pretty good all season. The Bengals offensive line is nowhere near as good. This will eventually catch up to them, especially against Donald and company. I expect the Rams to burden Burrow with all sorts of different looks, forcing him into uncomfortable situations. While he may have the most talented young receivers in the game, that won’t matter if he’s given less than three seconds to find them. With ball-hawking Jalen Ramsey lurking in the wings, consistent pressure should force Burrow into mistakes. The Rams had the third most sacks in the league this season. I like Burrow’s escape-ability and composure, but I don’t know if I like it that much. Edge: Los Angeles.
Destiny and the Freak – For some reason, I can’t stop thinking of Giannis Antetokounmpo. I know. At this point you’re saying SportsChump, wrong sport entirely. Just hear me out. And before you think I’m going to compare the Greek Freak to the young Joe Burrow, you’d be wrong. I’m going to compare him to Matthew Stafford. The knock on Giannis was that he couldn’t make his free throws. In the biggest game of his life, last year’s Finals Game Six, Giannis went to the free throw line 19 times. He made 17 of them. This is a guy that for the previous two seasons shot under 70% from the stripe. The criticisms that he wasn’t clutch were suddenly silenced. Stafford has heard those same criticisms for far too long. Locked with the Lions for what must now seem like an eternity, Stafford was lambasted for throwing pick after timely pick. Guess what. In three post-season games, Stafford has thrown only one interception. He understands his time is now. Having played this game professionally for thirteen seasons, I fully expect Stafford to have a near perfect game. I even like him for Super Bowl MVP. After all, this is Georgia’s year. The Atlanta Braves won the World Series. Stafford’s alma mater won a national championship. While those have nothing at all to do with Stafford on Sunday, I don’t think the moment will be lost on him. Edge: Push.
For all those reasons, I like the Rams in a high scoring contest. Rams 38 Bengals 24.
And now for our contest at hand. While every game so far has counted for only one point, I’ve decided to make things interesting and count the Super Bowl as two. That means three people are still eligible to win this thing: Moose, J-Dub and Nick Gee. Here are your current standings.
All I need from you is a winner and a tiebreaker just in case. The tiebreaker will be the total points scored in the game. If you’d care to email me privately that way others can’t see your picks, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’ve been eliminated but care to continue participating, that works as well. Leave me a final score and let’s see how close you get.
Remember, to the victor go the spoils. Winner of this contest will receive a SportsChump t-shirt and a customized Hogg tumbler courtesy of XVIII Designs.
Best of luck!