It all comes down to this. After the longest season in NFL history, both the Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals have cleared every hurdle to get to this point.
The Rams have been perennial contenders ever since head coach Sean McVay entered the building and are in the Super Bowl for the second time since his appointment in 2017. Their participation for the Lombardi feels natural.
The same cannot be said of the Bengals who have been transformed from one of the worst teams in the league to Super Bowl participants in just two seasons.
It is a remarkable journey that would not have been possible without quarterback Joe Burrow. The number one overall pick two drafts ago has outperformed the high expectations that come with going first off the board.
His combination of charisma, leadership and calm under pressure has brought Cincinnati this far. They have momentum – and a city enamoured with football – behind them.
However, the Rams have a more complete roster that is littered with elite players. Their quarterback, Matthew Stafford, was acquired in the offseason after spending a frustrating career with the moribund Detroit Lions. He has undoubtedly been an upgrade on Jared Goff.
Veteran players Stafford, Aaron Donald, Odell Beckham Jr, Cooper Kupp and Jalen Ramsey will believe their career has been unfulfilled without a ring and that this is their moment.
These two teams are well matched overall and the key battle will be in the trenches. The Rams defensive front, led by Donald and supplemented by Von Miller and Leonard Floyd, will be licking their lips at the prospect of taking on a suspect Bengals offensive line. It is strength against weakness.
If the Cincinnati line can protect Burrow, we have a game on our hands – one that the Bengals can win. If they cannot, it could be a long night reminiscent of last year’s Super Bowl when the Bucs defence dominated the Chiefs.
We are in for a good one. Stay tuned.