Often regarded as the best defensive player in the NFL, Donald had 19 tackles for loss, 12.5 sacks and 25 quarterback hits this season. He is Pro Football Focus’ top-graded interior defensive lineman, and his presence allows the Rams to use a defensive scheme that devotes more resources to stopping the pass without compromising the run defense.
L.A.’s “other” All-Pro defensive player might be even more important than Donald against the Bengals. The Bengals’ offensive game plan revolves around the explosiveness of rookie receiver Ja’Marr Chase, who creates opportunities for others when he is not tearing apart defenses himself. If Ramsey, who is PFF’s top-graded cornerback this season, can contain Chase one on one, that will make stopping the rest of the Bengals offense easier.
The former Bengal is still going strong at left tackle for the Rams, and he will have a huge role in the Super Bowl working against Cincinnati pass rushers Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard because their ability to get to the quarterback helps protect a so-so coverage group. Whitworth and right tackle Rob Havenstein are both among PFF’s top-graded tackles this season.
He led the NFL in receptions (145), receiving yards (1,947) and touchdown catches (16) with his knack for getting open and creating big plays.
At 33, the No. 1 pick of the 2009 draft got a new lease on life with the Rams this season after languishing with the Lions for years. He was second in the league with 41 touchdown passes but also tied rookie Trevor Lawrence for the lead in interceptions with 17. His strong arm and questionable decision-making could win or lose the game for either team.
Others to watch: Havenstein, edge rushers Vonn Miller and Leonard Floyd, center Brian Allen