INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Sitting here in the SoFi Stadium press box – Man, what a place! – I’m feeling more and more confident that the Cincinnati Bengals upset the Los Angeles Rams in today’s Super Bowl LVI.
Here are five reasons:
1. I believe the Bengals will rattle Rams’ quarterback Matthew Stafford and he’ll throw a pick, maybe two. He has trouble when opposing defenses drop 7 of 8 in coverage and that’s a Bengals specialty.
And as much as I hate to write this, I think the Rams’ 40-year-old left tackle Andrew Whitworth -- who became one of my favorite players ever in his 11 years with the Bengals, a real stand-up guy even when things were lousy – will have trouble fending off pass rusher Trey Hendrickson.
2. Rams’ All-World cornerback Jalen Ramsey and Bengals’ receiver, Ja’Marr Chase, the NFL Rookie of the Year, may checkmate each other today – though I see Chase beating him at least once for a long catch – but I don’t think the Rams can neutralize Cincinnati’s other two targets, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd. I see Higgins having a big day.
3. Joe Burrow rises to the moment in the biggest games and I think that can happen today. Even with Aaron Donald roaring down on him.
The pressure is all on the Rams, who broke the bank for this moment. The Bengals won’t say it, but they’re playing with house money. They’re loose, young and they believe.
4. Evan McPherson. The Bengals’ ice-in-the-veins kicker is a mix of Minnesota Fats, Karl Wallenda and Lou “The Toe” Groza.
5. The spirit of Harambe will lift this team. If you remember, the beloved 400-pound gorilla was killed by a Cincinnati Zoo worker in 2016 after a three-year-old kid climbed over the fence and fell into the zoo enclosure. Harambe grabbed hold of the child’s arm and pulled him around.
It was a sad and controversial ending – was lethal force the only way? – for the 17-year-old zoo favorite.
A year later Buffalo Bills fans used Harambe to troll the fumbling Bengals. They erected a billboard that read: “You can replace Dalton; you can’t replace Harambe.”
Dalton has been replaced and this young team is remembering Harambe.
Defensive end Sam Hubbard recently saluted Harambe on the “Pardon My Take” podcast, saying:
“Sweet Prince, that’s out guy, our hero. We’re doing this for him.”
My pick: Bengals 31, Rams 28