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Super Bowl LVI Preview: Top Storylines and Introducing the Contenders

The Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Rams punched their tickets to Super Bowl LVI with wins in the AFC and NFC Conference Championships respectively. The game happens in Los Angeles this year and airs on February 13 at 6:30 p.m. ET. Let’s take an initial look at the upcoming matchup and some of the storylines leading into this historic clash.

Cincinnati fell behind Kansas City and Patrick Mahomes early, trailing by as many as 18 points. Joe Burrow led a comeback against the Chiefs for the second time in about five weeks. The game went into overtime, but the Mahomes magic didn’t materialize. Burrow and the Bengals steadily wore down the Chiefs on the way to a 31-yard game-winning field goal.

The Rams had an equally exciting path to the Super Bowl. They faced the San Francisco 49ers for the third time this season and took a three-point lead with under two minutes remaining. Desperate to avoid a sack, Jimmy Garoppolo threw the ball up in the air, and the Rams came down with it, ending the game.

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Joe Burrow has led the Cincinnati Bengals to Super Bowl LVI in just his second season. Before this year, the Bengals hadn’t won a playoff game during Burrow’s life.

Previewing Super Bowl LVI

Cincinnati ends Super Bowl drought

Burrow made his playoff debut a few weeks ago. The second-year quarterback arrived in Cincinnati just over two years ago, when the Bengals were coming off a 2-14 season. The Heisman Trophy winner’s rookie year ended early because of a torn ACL. Head coach Zac Taylor seemed doomed to lose his job after the 2021 season. Everything pointed to the Bengals still needing several years to build a title contender.

Instead, the Bengals recently won their first playoff game since the 1990 season. Now they’re going to their first Super Bowl since the 1988 campaign. Cincinnati has two Super Bowl appearances in franchise history, both of which were losses to the San Francisco 49ers.

Thanks to amazing drafting and identifying cost-effective but impactful free agents, the Bengals turned their franchise around in two years.

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Matthew Stafford has won three consecutive playoff games after going 0-3 in the postseason with Detroit.

Rams return to the championship game

Sean McVay and Jared Goff faced Bill Belichick and Tom Brady in Super Bowl LIII. Things didn’t end the way Los Angeles wanted. Now, just a few years and a quarterback trade later, McVay has a chance to exorcise his Super Bowl demons.

The Rams went about building their contender very differently than Cincinnati. Instead of targeting high-impact players with top 100 draft picks, general manager Les Snead used those assets to acquire proven talent. Los Angeles hasn’t had a first-round selection since drafting Jared Goff in 2016, and they don’t have another one until 2024.

Since losing to the Patriots, Los Angeles has traded for Austin Corbett, Sony Michel, Von Miller, and Jalen Ramsey. The team also signed Odell Beckham Jr. and Leonard Floyd after their respective teams released them.

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Storylines to follow for Super Bowl LVI

Joe Burrow’s ascension

Burrow was the third-best quarterback during the regular season, but he has a chance to compete for the top spot by winning the Super Bowl. The former Heisman Trophy winner had a historic final year in college and seems primed to challenge Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes for rings and MVPs throughout the next decade.

Veterans winning rings

A championship could complete Aaron Donald’s resume. Other veterans like Beckham, Ramsey, Eric Weddle, and Andrew Whitworth also haven’t won Super Bowls yet.

Health concerns

The Bengals and Rams lost their starting tight ends this weekend. C. J. Uzomah and Tyler Higbee suffered knee injuries and were unable to return to action. Uzomah used a cart to get to the locker room.

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