This one is so easy, even the worst annual prediction column in Super Bowl history can’t get it wrong.
This one is so basic, even the buzz that surrounds my 5-17 Super Bowl prediction record can be ignored.
Yes, I was once wrong 11 straight times. Yes, I once picked the Buffalo Bills for three straight years. Yes, in the last Super Bowl, I was as flattened as the Kansas City Chiefs.
No, I’m not very good at this.
But, yes, truly, this one is different, this one is simple, this one is Plaschke Proof.
The winner of Super Bowl LVI Sunday between the Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals at SoFi Stadium will be decided by something as obvious as a punch in the mouth.
The Rams have the bigger swing. The Rams have the stronger jab. The Rams are heavyweights. The Bengals are not.
Quite simply and rather quickly, the Rams are going to knock them out.
Rams 38, Bengals 10.
All the hype this week has been about the Bengals’ cool quarterback Joe Burrow and hot receiver Ja’Marr Chase and a surprisingly stifling defense. All the trendy narratives have the Bengals making every big play, peaking at the right time, a team of destiny.
“You could also say the same about us,” Eric Weddle said.
Exactly. Precisely. Lost in all the Super Bowl week histrionics is the fact that everything the Bengals do, the Rams do better, and have done better, and will be doing so on their home field.
”Destiny and all that other stuff?” Weddle said. “All I see is us winning with zeros on the clock.”
Same here. Bet it hard. The Bengals are the youngest team in Super Bowl history and that matters. The Bengals nifty offense has just four touchdowns in 11 visits to the red zone this postseason, and that matters. The Bengals quick defense has been below average in the first half of games this season, and the Rams are 47-1 when leading at halftime under Sean McVay, and that matters.
The Bengals have gotten all the Super Bowl love, but this game ultimately won’t be about the Bengals, it will be about the Rams, their culture, their cohesion, their coronation.
“They have some things we have to combat but, really, it’s about us,” Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey said.
You might think it’s about Burrow, every discussion about this game starts with Burrow — how he’s the ultimate winner, hasn’t lost a big game since high school, could become the first player in history to win a Super Bowl, a national college football championship, a Heisman Trophy and be drafted first overall.
Fine, but how is he going to stay upright? He was sacked nine times in the AFC divisional playoff win against the Tennessee Titans and that wasn’t an anomaly. The Bengals offensive line blocks about as well as the Chiefs’ offensive line in last year’s Super Bowl, and you saw how Patrick Mahomes had to run for his life. For the same reasons, the same thing will happen here.
The Bengals offensive line ranks 30th in pass-rush win rate while the Rams defensive line ranks first in that category. Burrow led the NFL in QBR on passes outside the numbers, but the Rams allowed the fewest TDs and second-lowest QBR outside the numbers.
Translated? Burrow won’t have time to do much more than burrow, and Aaron Donald could be theMVP in a bruising response to his last tepid Super Bowl.
“We have guys who deserve a championship, we lost a Super Bowl, we have a chance at redemption,” Rams cornerback Darious Williams said. “Jalen [Ramsey] has a legacy, Aaron Donald has a legacy, we don’t want this to slip through our fingers.”
After Burrow and his offense, the spin then generally goes to the Bengals defense, which shut down Mahomes to get here and has intercepted at least one pass in each of their last four games.
But this same Bengals defense has ranked 25th in completion percentage on downfield passes of 20-plus yards this season, while Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford has led the NFL in yards-per-attempt on similar downfield throws with nine touchdowns.
And this same Bengals defense ranks 25th in pass-rush win rate while the Rams offensive line ranks first in that category.
Translated: Stafford is going to have plenty of time to throw plenty deep to Cooper Kupp and Odell Beckham Jr., and although the Bengals might get a pick, more often they will get burned.
While the Rams defense will dominate, it is the Rams offense that will be the difference between Sunday and their last Super Bowl. This offense has a chemistry that was lacking under Jared Goff and Todd Gurley. This time, this offense will score more than three points.
“So many guys on this team, you look across the room and you go, ‘Man, I want to win for that guy, that guy deserves it,’ ” said Rams tackle and offensive anchor Andrew Whitworth. “One of the more unique seasons I’ve had, a bunch of guys who have earned an opportunity like this and deserve and handle themselves in such an awesome way, you’d do anything for them to have that chance to hold that trophy up.”
They were handling it calmly Friday during the Super Bowl week’s only in-person media session, the Rams sitting at podiums on Cal Lutheran’s William Rolland Stadium with a quiet confidence. This team looks far different from the one that shakily tread into its last Super Bowl. This team looks ready.
“I don’t think anybody out here that feels like we’ve left anything in the tank,” Rams’ linebacker Troy Reeder said.
The talent disparity, the veteran culture, the big-game experience, the home-field comfort, all eventually will decide this game in favor of a Rams group that appears to be Sunday’s true team of destiny.
“You get between the white lines, it’s about … who holds their composure, who makes the least amount of mistakes, who executes those situation the cleanest and best,” Weddle said. “Our great players play great, we have a great shot at winning.”
They will. And they will.