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Five months ago, if someone was to tell you that the Cincinnati Bengals would win the AFC North and make it all the way to the Super Bowl, you’d be laughed at. Entering the season, they were seen as a 6.5 win team and were tied for the third worst Super Bowl odds in the NFL.
Cincinnati’s regular season would be defined by small streaks. This lead them to finishing at 10-7, which was good enough to land them the fourth seed in the playoffs.
Cincinnati would open their playoff run against the Las Vegas Raiders, beating them 26-19 for their first playoff win in 31 years. From there, they would become road warriors, by upsetting the top seeded Tennessee Titans, 19-16, and the defending AFC Champion Kansas City Chiefs in overtime, 27-24. After overcoming tremendous odds, they now have a date with destiny against the Los Angeles Rams.
Key To The Game
For Cincinnati to have any success against Los Angeles on offense, they’ll need open up the pass game. Los Angeles was sixth against the run this year but they were 22nd against the pass. Cincinnati is going to need to step up their pass game, being that they only have the sixth best passing offense of the 14 teams that made the playoffs. If quarterback Joe Burrow can crack the game open early and force a shootout in the passing game, they’ll have a very good chance of keeping up and possibly surpassing the high powered Los Angeles passing offense.
Defensively, they’ll need pressure Los Angeles quarterback Matt Stafford. This season, Stafford lead the league in interceptions thrown with 17. In the playoffs, he’s thrown one interception but he’s also been sacked five times. If Cincinnati can get into Stafford’s face early and often, he’ll make mistakes and giveaway the game. How do we know? He’s had some issues in crunch time when the pressure is really on.
Defensive End Sam Hubbard: Hubbard, Trey Hendrickson and B.J. Hill will have one of the hardest tasks in this game: getting to Stafford. They don’t need to sack him, they need to force him to make a mistake. Every questionable throw, every forced throw and every mistake will matter in this game. Whoever has the ball last very well could be the winner. This will be a game where whoever makes the least amount of mistakes will probably win.