Staff Super Bowl LVI predictions

The Los Angeles Rams will take on the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles, California on Feb. 13. Photo courtesy of USA TODAY.

This week, the Butler Collegian’s sports section, composed of 13 staff members, gave their picks on who they believe will be the winner of Super Bowl LVI. In an overwhelming majority, the section favors the Los Angeles Rams defeating the Cincinnati Bengals at SoFi Stadium. The favorite amongst our analysts to win Super Bowl MVP is Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford.

Here is what each member of the section had to say about the big game on Sunday:

Kobe Mosley: Rams 27, Bengals 23; Super Bowl MVP: Aaron Donald

With all the non-football related stories circulating around the NFL right now, there’s a good chance that the game on Sunday will lead us back to enjoying some exciting football. Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals have been nothing short of fantastic this postseason and I believe they will continue to play well in this Super Bowl. However, I think this Rams defense, led by players like Jalen Ramsey, Aaron Donald, Von Miller and Leonard Floyd, will play their best football on the biggest stage. Protecting the quarterback is something the Bengals have struggled to do, and with Ramsey likely to occupy rookie wideout Ja’Marr Chase, the Rams — especially Donald — will be getting after Burrow all night long. As long as Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford can end his drives with points, I think he will lead the Rams past the Bengals in a close contest.

Devin Abell: Rams 33, Bengals 17; Super Bowl MVP: Aaron Donald

Look, I get it. Joe Shiesty is one cool mama-jama. Smokin’ Joe has laid waste to every opponent in his path, leaving nothing standing in the way enroute to his first Super Bowl. However, if I’ve learned anything from the past decade, it’s that defense wins championships. From the 2013 Seahawks to the 2015 Broncos — and reluctantly the 2019 Patriots — I’ve seen talented defenses dismantle, devastate and destroy opposing offenses into submission. Unfortunately for Joe Brrr, he will be on the receiving end of this beat down. Aaron Donald,  Leonard Floyd, Von Miller and Jalen Ramsey are going to remind Joe Cool that he still has a long way to go in this league. I’m taking the over on five sacks for the Rams defense.

Henry Bredemeier: Rams 27, Bengals 19; Super Bowl MVP: Matthew Stafford

As we saw last year, and countless other times in NFL history, defense wins championships. The Rams boast a much stronger defense, especially up front. The defensive line led by Aaron Donald and Von Miller will pressure Joe Burrow throughout the game behind his porous offensive line, similar to when the Titans sacked Burrow nine times in the Divisional round. The Matthew Stafford-Cooper Kupp connection will continue to thrive and the Rams will jump out to an early 14-3 lead. Burrow and the Bengals will climb back, but won’t be able to get over the hump and win Ohio its first ever Super Bowl. Donald and the defense will be the reason for victory in Los Angeles, but Stafford will capture the MVP and cement himself as a hall-of-fame quarterback.

Ethan Polak: Rams 31, Bengals 21; Super Bowl MVP: Matthew Stafford

If this year has taught us anything, it is that the NFL scriptwriters deserve a raise. Jokes aside, the playoffs this year have been absolutely insane, leading to very high expectations for the Super Bowl with two of the NFL’s biggest offensive powerhouses. The Los Angeles Rams head into the ‘home game’ inside SoFi Stadium as the clear favorites. Freed from the years of suffering in Motor City, Matthew Stafford has found new life in Los Angeles combining with Cooper Kupp to almost break Calvin Johnson’s single season receiving yard title this year. Add on a defense filled with NFL All-Pros, including Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey and former Super Bowl MVP Von Miller. While the Bengals season has been nothing short of a miracle, the star power of the Rams will be enough to overwhelm Joe Burrow and the Bengals. The deciding factor of the game — protecting the quarterback. Burrow was sacked nine times against the Titans in the AFC divisional round, so just imagine what will happen when Donald and Miller step up to the line. The clock will strike midnight on the Bengals’ Cinderella run, as they will fall just short to the next Super Bowl MVP — Stafford — whose elite play will finally earn himself a chance to hoist the Lombardi. 

Shawn Wheeler: Rams 27, Bengals 24; Super Bowl MVP: Matthew Stafford

Throughout these playoffs, we have seen a trend of close games being decided in the final minutes, and often the final seconds. It is only fitting that this game would go down to the wire, but I think the Rams will come out on top. During this postseason, Matthew Stafford has proven that — despite his Lions’ history — he can step up in big games. This is exactly what will happen on Sunday night. Stafford will earn a Lombardi Trophy in his first year outside of Detroit. He will deliver a Super Bowl victory to the city of Los Angeles for the first time since 1983, when the Los Angeles Raiders did so. The Rams are a team full of elite talent on both sides of the ball. Their offense includes star receiver Cooper Kupp, who had his best career game against the Bengals in 2019. The Rams’ pass rush, led by Aaron Donald, should be able to overpower an often shaky Bengals offensive line. Watch for Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow to be under immense pressure most of the night. Many Rams starters competed in Super Bowl LIII three years ago and can draw on that experience to handle the pressure of the big game. Led by their youthful stars, the Bengals will not go down easily, but their inexperience will be their downfall on the biggest stage. However, you can expect them to be a regular championship contender for years to come. 

Ryan Grill: Rams 34, Bengals 21; Super Bowl MVP: Cooper Kupp 

As a diehard Detroit sports fan, I’ve spent most my life trying to tell those who aren’t that Matthew Stafford is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. This game will hopefully earn him the respect he deserves. Stafford and Burrow are both fearless quarterbacks who have proved doubters wrong to get this far. This game will be decided by the Rams defense who will undoubtedly be in Burrow’s face all game. With that being said, if Ja’Marr Chase and the Bengals wide receiving core can win their battles and help Burrow out, I can see this being a one score game. In the end, Aaron Donald and Von Miller are just too good for a struggling Bengals offensive line which will end up costing Cincinnati. Offensively, Cooper Kupp and Matthew Stafford are going to light it up, which will earn Kupp Super Bowl MVP. 

Michael Beros: Bengals 27, Rams 24; Super Bowl MVP: Joe Burrow

Why shouldn’t the Bengals do the impossible again? Joe Burrow came into this season with one functional ACL and an offensive line that gives up sacks faster than Ja’Marr Chase can get downfield. Yet here we are, with the entire American population rooting for Joe Brrrr and Ja’Marr Chase to take out Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp, Odell and all the defensive talent you could ask for. Bengals shock everyone again, Get the Gat plays for another week, and Evan McPherson wins it again for the Bengals effectively immortalizing this team in NFL lore.  

Andrew Mild: Rams 23, Bengals 13; Super Bowl MVP: Matthew Stafford

I’m a huge Chicago Bears fan, which means every year the fans are always happy to see the Detroit Lions on the schedule. Except for a few years, I was never happy to see Matthew Stafford in the blue and silver — because the man has guts. Once he dislocated his shoulder in a game, and basically willed his way to the ball and won the game for the Lions against the Browns. Another time he literally broke bones in his back and almost beat the Oakland Raiders. If anyone deserves to be in a Super Bowl — it’s Matthew Stafford. For the game, I am going to be taking the Los Angeles Rams in a matchup that will come down to the battle in the trenches. The Rams defense was third in sacks with 50, while the Bengals were third in sacks allowed with 55. Last year, I underestimated the Bucs defense against the Chiefs offensive line and I won’t forget watching Patrick Mahomes looking like a chicken running from a hungry pack of wolves. I think Aaron Donald, Von Miller and Jalen Ramsey will be the difference makers slowing down the Bengals offense. This will allow Stafford and Kupp to get the job done and get the Rams to their first championship since the St. Louis Rams “greatest show on turf.”

Jack Gutzler: Rams 31, Bengals 24; Super Bowl MVP: Matthew Stafford

This year’s matchup features two teams that haven’t had easy paths to reach this event. Both the Rams and Bengals have had massive rebuilds in the past decade, and have seen more than their fair share of losses. The Bengals are just two seasons removed from a 2-14 record, which allowed them to get the first pick in the NFL draft — enter star QB Joe Burrow. Cincinnati has had a fairytale season, led by Burrow and rookie receiver Ja’Marr Chase. The duo has made dozens of highlight plays throughout the season which allowed them to capture an improbable AFC North title. The Rams are led by veteran QB Matthew Stafford, who finds himself on the NFL’s greatest stage after over a decade of struggle in Detroit. The Rams defense is stacked with talent, including players like Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey. The game will live up to all the hype that has been generated so far, and it’ll come down to the final minute. The major X-Factor for Cincinnati will be its offensive line, which has struggled at points during the season. They will be tasked with blocking a formidable Rams defense that will be hungry to force turnovers. While the offensive line will be solid on Sunday, the Rams offensive duo of Stafford and Cooper Kupp — one of the league’s top wide receivers — will simply be too much for Cincinnati. The young Bengals will put up a valiant fight, but at the end of the day, we will see Matthew Stafford and the Rams lifting the Lombardi Trophy in their home stadium. 

Jason Storms: Rams 35, Bengals 27; Super Bowl MVP: Aaron Donald

This Super Bowl has all the storylines you could ask for. Rams new quarterback Matthew Stafford gets out of Detroit and collects his first, second and third playoff wins of his career. The Rams organization has gone all–in, trading for big name players like Jalen Ramsey — and more recently — Odell Beckham Jr. and Von Miller. Cooper Kupp has had a historic season, nearly racking up 2,000 yards. Aaron Donald is one of the best defensive players ever, still in his prime. This is the Rams’ window to win it all, as they traded a plethora of first and second round picks in the coming years to build their roster now. They seem so dominant, who could stop them? If there’s one guy to overcome their odds this season, it’s Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow. The man has been on a tear to end the season, and is unstoppable right now after stunning the Chiefs at home. He absolutely has ice in his veins, and paired with former LSU teammate Ja’Marr Chase, has proven to be nearly unstoppable. The key to this game’s outcome — and the reason why I think the Rams should beat the Bengals —  is the mismatch between the Bengals poor offensive line and the Rams elite defensive line. Aaron Donald is going to have a field day, and probably sack Joey B a few times and force a fumble or two. Joe Burrow is going to be running for his life, just like Patrick Mahomes did last year. We all know how that turned out. Los Angeles is built to beat the Bengals. Joe Burrow is built for the moment —  he is Joe Shiesty afterall. He has championship DNA. Will he surpass the odds on the biggest stage of his career? I hope so, but it’s unlikely.

Sarah Hohman: Rams 31, Bengals 27; Super Bowl MVP: Matthew Stafford

As a Cleveland Browns fan, this game feels like a lose-lose. Odell Beckham Jr. on one side and the division rival Bengals on the other. The Rams, with home field advantage, appear to be the favored team. Their defense lined up with Aaron Donald, Von Miller and Jalen Ramsey will come out strong against Joe Burrow and the rest of the Bengals’ offense. The Bengals’ offensive line has been inconsistent, as they gave up nine sacks to the Titans, but just one to the Chiefs. They will have to have a strong plan to face up against the powerful Rams’ line and QB Joe Burrow will need to get the ball out quickly. On the other side of the ball, Matthew Stafford has upped his efficiency in the playoffs with a 72% completion rate and throwing only one interception. With the trend of the playoff games this season, I expect a close match-up and maybe the Lombardi Trophy even coming down to just a coin flip.

Matthew Crane: Bengals 24, Rams 21; MVP: Joe Burrow

The Bengals run here feels destined to end in a Super Bowl victory. Cincinnati is buzzing again —  and should be —  after the team combined to go 6-25-1 in the two prior seasons. While the Rams are the favorite, I do not see their D-line doing as much damage as people think. Aaron Donald will be a massive issue and will require the attention of multiple members of the Bengals O-line. After allowing nine sacks to the Titans, they only gave up one to the Chiefs. If that O-line shows up, Joe Burrow will have the time he needs to distribute the ball to his weapons down the field. I also do not trust Matthew Stafford’s ability to avoid turnovers. In a game this important, I am concerned about him throwing multiple interceptions. While Jalen Ramsey will undoubtedly be all over Ja’Marr Chase, I see a huge day coming for Tee Higgins, which will allow the Bengals to move the ball down the field. In the end, Evan McPherson will kick the game winning FG and America will once again watch Joe Burrow celebrating with fellow LSU Tiger Ja’Marr Chase by smoking a cigar. 

Jake Kaufman: Bengals 28, Rams 24; Super Bowl MVP: Joe Burrow

In theory, the Bengals should have no chance of winning this game. They’re a young team with numerous flaws —  faulty offensive line, questionable defensive and young coach —  that people didn’t believe could make it to the big game. Along with going up against one of the greatest defensive players in history in Aaron Donald, Matt Stafford is playing great. Even with all of that, I still can’t pick against Burrow. He’s proven time and time again that he can overcome enormous challenges dating back to his days at LSU. He’s cool, calm, composed and his relationship with Ja’Marr Chase will be huge in this game. If Chase can get off to a quick start, that will open up the field for Joe Mixon, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd among others. Joe Burrow is a proven winner, and after Sunday he will have a case for being a top three quarterback in the league heading into next season.

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