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Archived: Hank Says RAMS -4 over Bengals in Superbowl 56!

February 9, 2022

After the longest regular season and postseason in NFL history, it is time for Super Bowl 56. Whether you are pulling for the Los Angeles Rams or Cincinnati Bengals, we are indeed in store for a historic game.

What are Hank’s Predictions for the Big Game?

RAMS -4
RAMS ML -210

The pressure is on the Bengals’ offensive line

It’s been a story for two years, and it is not going away anytime soon. Also, it is the matchup of weakness vs. strength for these two teams. Led by Aaron Donald, Von Miller, Leonard Floyd, Greg Gaines, and A’Shawn Robinson, the Rams’ defensive front is arguably the best the NFL has to offer. As a defense, they are No. 5 and were able to pressure opposing QBs on 22.8% of dropbacks.

As we all know, this is where the Bengals are vulnerable. As demonstrated in the Divisional Round, the Bengals’ offensive line has struggled to keep Joe Burrow clean, allowing a record 9 sacks to the Tennessee Titans. Burrow was sacked 55 times in the regular season, third-most in the league. The Bengals also ranked 31nd in adjusted sack rate.

Joe Burrow needs to get the ball out quickly

As we have seen all season, Burrow is special. The Bengals loaded the offense with weapons, including his former LSU teammate Ja’Marr Chase. If Burrow has time, he finds Chase or even Tee Higgins on back-breaking plays. The way he has helped mitigate their offensive line deficiencies is to get the ball out quickly. Yet, don’t mistake that for checkdowns.

Burrow had the second-highest quick throw rate (less than 3.0 seconds) among QBs at 57.1% (minimum 200 attempts). However, he still had an aDOT (average depth of target) of 8.1, one of the highest in the NFL. This has helped the offensive line. When Burrow gets the ball out in under 3.0 seconds, his pressure and sack rates are within a percentage point on either side of the NFL average.

When the internal clock gets above 3.0 seconds, Cincinnati’s OL struggles to maintain their blocks, and it shows. If Burrow’s pocket time is greater than 3.0 seconds, his pressure rate jumps to 55.0%. That is 15.9 percentage points higher than the NFL average (39.1%). Similarly, the sack rate goes up to 22.5%, a 10.9 point increase among other QBs at 11.6%.

I could argue Burrow has the best pocket awareness and movement of any quarterback in the NFL following Tom Brady’s retirement. He will need every bit of that if he hopes to stay out of reach of Donald, Miller, and Floyd.

Can the Rams get a rushing game going against Cincinnati?

In three playoff games, the Rams have had an almost non-existent rushing game. As a team, they have 97 carries for 283 yards and a 2.9-yard average, with as many fumbles (2) as touchdowns. In fact, both of their touchdowns have come from Matthew Stafford on third-and-1 goal-line sneaks. They have 6 runs of 10+ yards but have been stuffed for no gain or a loss on 25 plays.

Now, we have to mention who the Rams played. All year, Tampa Bay was a pass-funnel due to their stout run defense (No. 5 in rush EPA). Then it was San Francisco in the Conference Championship. The 49ers have the best run fit in the NFL and were No. 2 in rush DVOA and EPA. Context matters.

The Bengals are a middle-of-the-road unit. They’re 14th in EPA and 13th in DVOA but have been on a roll as of late. They have allowed 100 yards or more on the ground just once since Week 15 (including playoffs) while holding the Ravens, Chiefs, Browns, Raiders, and Titans to less than 90 yards. While I do expect the Rams to maintain a somewhat balanced approach (59% pass rate on the season), their success will come via the air, not on the ground.

Super Bowl Pick and Prediction: Can Cincinnati cover the spread?

With the stage set, let’s get into the final prediction and make a pick for the Super Bowl. The Rams are a rightful favorite, entering between 4 and 4.5-point favorites depending on where you place your bets.

The Rams are as explosive as it gets, recording a league-high 18 passing plays of 40 yards or more. Want to guess who was second? Yup, the Bengals at 16. However, can Burrow do it against Jalen Ramsey and LA’s secondary?

If you are playing this strictly by the numbers, the Bengals are the choice at +4 and especially +4.5. The fact this is over 3 points is massive, as 3 is one of the big numbers in football betting. Since 2000, only two teams have covered as 4-point favorites or more. That’s an against-the-spread (ATS) record of 2-10-1. The last team to win and cover was the Indianapolis Colts (-7) in 2007 against the Bears.

RAMS 28 Bengals 20

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