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Back in September, 32 teams hit the field with the opportunity to win a Super Bowl (though perhaps a few weren’t embracing that opportunity as fully as others). After a first-ever 17 game regular season and three rounds of playoff games, we’re down to just two.

The Los Angeles Rams are set to take on the Cincinnati Bengals for the chance to hoist aloft the Lombardi trophy as NFL champions. The game is set to take place at SoFi Stadium – the home of the Rams, marking just the second time in Super Bowl history that a team will play the game on their own home field. Granted, the first time was last year when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers played (and won) Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium.

Kickoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Eastern time on Feb. 13.

Neither team was expected to make it this far – both squads had to win three games to get here. Each came into the playoffs as the fourth seed in their respective conference; this is the first time in history that not one of the top-three seeds from either conference is in the Super Bowl.

But while these aren’t the teams we expected to see, there are plenty of compelling storylines at play here. You’ve got an all-in Rams team against a Bengals team that has arrived earlier than anticipated. Exciting young talent and record-breaking players on both sides of the ball. The Rams haven’t won the title in over 20 years … and the Bengals have never won it.

There’s a lot happening here, is what I’m saying.

Let’s take a stroll through the teams and break down some of the positional matchups to get a sense of which squad stands superior. Of course, the most talented team doesn’t always win. The most prepared team doesn’t always win. The team we think will win doesn’t always win.

You get the picture. Anyone who tells you they KNOW what will happen is a charlatan who is almost certainly trying to sell you something. No one knows how this will all play out, but here’s my best guess – the best guess of a guy who, in the interest of full disclosure, got absolutely housed by his dog in picking winners this season (though my postseason run was solid).

Let’s break it down.

Published in Cover Story

Back in September, 32 NFL teams began a journey that they hoped would end with a trip to Atlanta and an opportunity to lift the Lombardi Trophy as the victors in Super Bowl LIII.

After 16 games in the regular season and some hard-fought contests in January, the field has been whittled down to just two. The New England Patriots – back for the third year in a row and for the ninth time in the 21st century – are set to face off against the Los Angeles Rams, who haven’t been to the big game since they lost to these same Patriots back in 2002.

This rematch is to be played 17 years to the day after that one, a New England victory that would prove to be the first championship of the team’s dynastic run.

Obviously, these aren’t the same teams that faced off on February 3, 2002. However, two very important figures from that long-ago Patriots squad remain. Quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick are still here, continuing to build on the astonishing legacy (nine Super Bowls, eight straight AFC Championship appearances and 13 total) that they’ve spent the past two decades burnishing.

On the other side, we have the Rams, representing the new guard in the NFL. Head coach Sean McVay is just 33 years old – half the age of his opponent. Quarterback Jared Goff is 24 years old and in his third season; he was just six years old when Tom Brady entered the NFL. They’re a young and hungry group predicted by some to be the successors to the Patriots atop the football world, but they haven’t won anything yet.

So what’s going to happen?

While I’m not one to give too much credence to the necessity of experience, the reality is that this Patriots team has been in this spot A LOT. Meanwhile, just about everybody on the Rams sideline is new to this kind of big game pressure. Will that make a difference? Almost certainly. The amount of difference will likely determine who ultimately comes out on top here.

Still, it’s all about the matchups on the field. Let’s have a look.

Published in Cover Story

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