Super Bowl Hangover More Likely for Rams or Bengals?

Los Angeles Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald.Nfl Super Bowl 56 Los Angeles Rams Vs Cincinnati Bengals Feb 13 2022 Albert Cesare 2686
Los Angeles Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald.Nfl Super Bowl 56 Los Angeles Rams Vs Cincinnati Bengals Feb 13 2022 Albert Cesare 2686 /

The Rams and Bengals squared off in last season’s Super Bowl, with Los Angeles ultimately prevailing and hoisting the Lombardi. Now, we enter the 2022 season, and on paper, each roster might be even more stacked than the year prior. Still, it’s an undeniable fact that more-often-than-not, at least one team suffers from the dreaded Super Bowl Hangover. We will highlight the arguments for and against a hangover for each team, let’s start with the champions first.

The Los Angeles Rams

Key Departures:

•WR Robert Woods (Titans)

•WR Odell Beckham Jr. (Free Agent)

•EDGE Von Miller (Bills)

•CB Darious Williams (Jaguars)

•OT Andrew Whitworth (Retired)

Key Additions:

•LB Bobby Wagner

•WR Allen Robinson

•CB Troy Hill

•OG Logan Bruss

Current Betting Lines:

•O10.5 (-110)   •U10.5 (-110)

•To Win NFC West: +125

•To Win NFC: +500

•To Win Super Bowl: +1100

The Los Angeles Rams swung for the fences last off-season by acquiring quarterback Matthew Stafford from the Detroit Lions. They also added another high profile player when they brought Odell Beckham Jr. into the fold. Powered by the strength of the Stafford to Kupp connection, the Rams won their first Super Bowl since Kurt Warner was leading the Greatest Show on Turf.

The Rams lost some key contributors to their championship team. First, after spending 16 years in the NFL (11 of which came with Cincinnati), offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth decided to ride off into the sunset on top. The Rams lost Von Miller and Darious Williams via free agency, and the team traded away Robert Woods to the Tennessee Titans for a day three pick. There’s a chance that Odell Beckham Jr. returns, but no traction is currently present for an imminent deal.

Two major free agent signings, Bobby Wagner and Allen Robinson, offset much of the loss. They have been two of the most talented at their respective positions over the past decade, and both have plenty left in the tank. The duo can no longer carry units by themselves, but on a roster like the Rams, they will not be asked to. Wagner gets to play on the same defense as Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey. That should terrify opponents to no end. Insert Allen Robinson opposite Cooper Kupp, and life is going to easier than it’s ever been for ARob. Stafford is immediately the best quarterback that Robinson has ever caught passes from and Sean McVay is head and shoulders above any coach he’s had.

Super Bowl Hangover is Coming for the Cincinnati Bengals

One key addition that isn’t listed is the return of running back Cam Akers to the backfield. Achilles injuries are worrisome and there’s no guarantee that Akers regains form, but in the event he does, the Rams become an even more multi-dimensional attack. If Akers can keep the opposing defense honest, Stafford will have the luxury of picking them apart.

As far as the division goes, it looks weaker than the 2021 season. The Rams, Cardinals, and 49ers all qualified for a playoff spot, but it would be more surprising to see all three make it this year. The Cardinals lost Chandler Jones and will be without star wide receiver Deandre Hopkins for the first six games of the season. The 49ers are shifting to the Trey Lance era, and while I have high expectations, it is far from a certainty that Lance can lead the team to the postseason in year one as a starter. The Seahawks aren’t in full rebuild mode, but after trading away Russell Wilson, they likely will not be a factor in the playoff race.

Add in that the rest of the NFC is fairly weak from top-to-bottom, and I find it nearly impossible for the Rams to miss the playoffs in 2022. Obviously, a major injury or two could derail the season, but as of this writing, all signs point to another playoff appearance for Los Angeles. They will be looking to become the first team to win back-to-back Super Bowls since the Patriots did so nearly two decades ago. I’ll hammer the over on their 10.5 win total.

The Cincinnati Bengals

Key Departures:

•TE CJ Uzomah (Jets)

•OT Riley Reiff (Free Agent)

Key Additions:

•OG Alex Cappa

•C Ted Karras

•OT La’el Collins

•TE Hayden Hurst

•Saf. Daxton Hill

•CB Cam Taylor-Britt

Current Betting Lines:

•O9.5 (-120)   •U9.5 (+100)

•To Win AFC North: +180

•To Win AFC: +1100

•To Win Super Bowl: +2000

The Cincinnati Bengals, uncharacteristically, opened the checkbook last off-season and it paid off immensely. The Bengals signed defensive end Trey Hendrickson to a four-year deal, and he led the team in sacks with a career-high 14. They also signed two members of their current secondary, Mike Hilton and Chidobe Awuzie. These three helped reshape a defensive unit that played a pivotal role in the teams run to the Super Bowl.

As we know, the Bengals came up just short of the top prize, dropping a hotly-contested Super Bowl by only three points. Same with the Rams, the Bengals actually improved even more this off-season. First and foremost, they set out to improve the offensive line in hopes of protecting their franchise player, quarterback Joe Burrow. The Bengals inked Alex Cappa, Ted Karras, and La’el Collins to free-agent deals. All three will start and immediately elevate the group a couple tiers in the overall rankings. Thinking about Burrow having all day to throw behind an offensive line is tantalizing. Running back Joe Mixon had a strong 2021 season, but with the upgrades on the line, he has a chance to put up some insane production.

The aforementioned defense also improved, this time primarily through the 2022 NFL Draft. The Bengals added arguably the best safety in the draft when they selected Daxton Hill at the back end of the first round. Hill will form a dream team of sorts at safety with Jessie Bates (and may be the long-term replacement too). Round two saw the team take cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt, and he will challenge for starter reps as a rookie. All things being equal, the Bengals have a good chance to make the playoffs again. However, I believe they are far more likely to stumble than the Rams. Before you sharpen your pitchforks, allow me to explain.

Not only is the AFC much, much stronger than the NFC, the AFC North itself will be a dog fight. Lamar Jackson is entering the final year of his deal, and with an upgraded roster he will be motivated to replicate his MVP season from a few years ago. The Steelers lost long-time quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, but given how limited he was in 2021, it could reasonably be addition by subtraction. Then, we have the Browns. If, and that’s a mighty if right now, Deshaun Watson is cleared to play in 2022, the Browns will be one of the favorites to win it all.

Every single team in the AFC West has a realistic chance at winning 10+ games. The Titans, Bills and Patriots all reached double-digit victories in 2021 as well. The Dolphins and Colts were within one game of doing the same. Plain and simple, the AFC is a murderers row of teams. And guess where the bullseye is for each team? That’s right, it is squarely on the Cincinnati Bengals. There’s a distinct difference from being the happy-go-lucky team that’s playing with house money, and being the team that everyone throws their best punch at. The Bengals won 10 regular season games, but caught fire in the playoffs. Even with that success, many of the games ultimately came down to rookie kicker Evan McPherson. It is easy to forget that they were very up-and-down during the regular season in 2021.

Listen, if I was betting on whether or not the Bengals make the playoffs, I’d be silly to not lean in their favor. However, it would not surprise me at all to see them trip and fall back a little bit. That doesn’t mean they’re destined to repeat constant failure, but the possibility exists that 2022 could go poorly. Looking back at the last six teams to lose the Super Bowl, half of them missed the playoffs the following season (2016 Panthers, 2019 Rams, 2020 49ers) and the other half made the playoffs (2017 Falcons, 2018 Patriots, and 2021 Chiefs). We will see what Joey B has in store for his second full season as the Bengals starting quarterback.