For Cincinnati Bengals fans of a certain age, perhaps the most joyous aspect of their run to the Super Bowl is that they won’t be facing the San Francisco 49ers in the showpiece game. Yes, it was the 49ers who denied them their taste of glory in each of their previous two Super Bowl appearances, getting the better of the Ohio-based franchise in both 1981 and 1988. They were both narrow defeats for the Bengals, but on both occasions they just didn’t quite have the quality required to take home the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
31 years later, Cincinnati find themselves back in the NFL’s blue riband event, staring down the barrel of greatness. They are one of 12 teams to have never won a Super Bowl, yet suddenly from nowhere the chance has presented itself this season. Heading into the postseason play-offs, the Bengals were not especially fancied in the Super Bowl betting, but after wins over the Las Vegas Raiders, the Tennessee Titans and the Kansas City Chiefs, they have emerged from nowhere to give themselves a chance to make up for those two losses to the 49ers back in the 1980s.
It may not be the San Francisco outfit they’ll face in the Super Bowl, but it is another California-based team in the shape of the LA Rams, who themselves are chasing a first Super Bowl win since moving back to the City of Angels in 2015. They won the Super Bowl in 1999 as the St. Louis Rams, and also narrowly missed out on the title in 2019, losing 13-3 to the New England Patriots in what was the lowest scoring Super Bowl of all time.
The Rams will be buoyed by the fact that this year’s Super Bowl is taking place in their home, the SoFi Stadium. Bizarrely, it is the second year running where one of the teams in the showpiece game has been playing at their home stadium, following the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ triumph in Florida last year.
The Bengals may feel that the odds are against them, and the Betfair NFL betting tips certainly suggest the Rams are the favourites, but Zac Taylor’s men will be desperate to cause an upset on the west coast and walk away with the Vince Lombardi Trophy. After all, no one gave them a chance going into the play-offs, so why should they fear anyone now?
With their inspired quarterback Joe Burrows ready to face his date with destiny, much will hinge on whether the 25-year-old can cope with the pressure that comes with the Super Bowl. It is a different kettle of fish to any other regular season or postseason game, simply due to the microscopic focus that is placed on the Super Bowl all over the world. Millions of eyes will be watching, and it remains to be seen whether Burrows can stand up and make this opportunity count.
Both he and the rest of the Bengals roster can take confidence from the scalps they have claimed en route to this final showdown. The Titans were the number one seed for the play-offs, having boasted a 12-5 record in the regular season, but the Bengals went to the Nissan Stadium and produced a great performance.
They did the same thing against the Chiefs in Kansas City, so they should be fully confident that they can take the Rams down and claim that first Super Bowl triumph at the third time of asking.