With the Rams sitting four-point favorites against the Bengals in Super Bowl 2022, find out why two of Action Network’s analysts are leaning toward picking opposite sides of the early spread.
Anderson: The Rams were the far better team in their NFC Championship win, while the Bengals looked totally out of it against the Chiefs before clawing their way back to steal the AFC crown from down 18. Still, we need to trust what we saw on Sunday: That the Rams are the much better team.
The Rams finished the season ranked top eight in offensive, defensive and even special teams DVOA, per Football Outsiders. The Bengals ranked in the bottom half of the NFL in offensive and defensive DVOA, as well as season-long overall DVOA.
DVOA can only tell us so much, but it does tell us that the Rams were a far better regular-season team and that the Bengals are one of the worst Super Bowl teams in recent memory. Remember, they got a big comeback win over the Chiefs, but also went down 21-3 early and looked lifeless — both parts count. The Rams’ defense is the best the Bengals will face all season.
Cincinnati faced the easiest slate of opposing defenses all year, facing only one defense that finished the season ranked in the top 10, plus twice against the 11th-ranked Browns. The Bengals lost all three games (one while resting in Week 18), averaging just 19.5 points in the two meaningful games compared to 28.9 against the rest of the schedule. Cincinnati has yet to play a top-11 defense in the playoffs, either.
And the Rams are just not an average defense, particularly up front. Remember how the Titans sacked Joe Burrow nine times in the divisional round behind this shoddy Bengals offensive line? The Rams lead the league in ESPN’s pass rush win rate — and Aaron Donald, Von Miller and Co. are going to live in the Bengals’ backfield.
I don’t trust these teams and I did not expect either to win three games and reach the Super Bowl. Obviously I was wrong, and that means I’m making a tentative read here on two teams I need to give more credit to. But my initial read is that the Rams are the better team, especially on defense, and that their pass rush against the Bengals offensive line is the big mismatch.
Palmer: My full-season numbers actually make the Rams closer to five-point favorites over Cincinnati, but I don’t believe that’s capturing what this Bengals team is now. With Donald and Miller, the Rams do have a huge edge with their defensive line, which ranks first in ESPN’s pass rush win rate. Against this struggling Bengal’s offensive line, that matchup is key.
However, the Bengals also have a huge edge with their receivers in Ja’Marr Chase and Tyler Boyd facing this depleted Rams secondary. I don’t have a definitive pick yet, but there’s something really special about Joe Burrow and he is looking Tom Brady-esque during this postseason.
Burrow won a game in which he was sacked nine times and won another in which he was down 21-3 to Patrick Mahomes. I still don’t have faith in Matthew Stafford and believe Burrow is the better quarterback, so I’m inclined to lean toward the Bengals with the points and the moneyline. But I may be waiting on the market to find the best number.