More like, Super Bawl, am I right?
Ahead of the AFC Championship Game, I warned that the further the Chiefs climbed up that mountain, the longer and more painful the fall to the bottom would be — and what a fall it was. I won't bore you by rehashing the events that led to Kansas City tumbling off the rockface and free-falling to the jagged rocks below.
...I won't dwell on the fact that if Patrick Mahomes simply throws the ball away at the end of the first half instead of dumping it off to Tyreek Hill short of the goal line, the Chiefs most likely kick a field goal and thus never have to play in overtime.
...Or that the Chiefs had the ball first-and-goal from the 5-yard line with a 1:26 left on the clock in the fourth quarter, and instead of winning the game, they decided to blunder their way backward, losing 19 yards.
...I won't mention that the Chiefs only had 83 yards of offense in the second half.
...I won't bring up the fact that the Chiefs' second-half and overtime drives ended like this: punt, punt, interception, punt, punt, field goal, interception.
But you see — that's the kicker with this one, part of the reason it burns me up so much.
It's not like the Bengals blew the Chiefs out of the building and scored five touchdowns in the second half. It was death by a thousand cuts (also known as three field goals and a touchdown).
At any point, all the Chiefs had to do to stop the bleeding was just score one more time.
Instead, we're sitting here, depressed, in a full-body cast, our bones (spirit) broken from the fall, itching like crazy from the sweat that's trapped in the parts we can't reach.
They say it's better to have played in the AFC Championship Game and lost than to never have played in it at all.
To that, I say...
Basically, we're all feeling like Travis Kelce when somebody makes a joke about Mahomes:
I don't blame you if you have decided to act like the Super Bowl doesn't exist and instead are going to spend your weekend doing mock drafts, trying to decide which is a better position for the Chiefs to take in the first round: edge or wide receiver?
Or maybe cap management is more your cup of tea, so perhaps you're digging into the numbers and devising a plan of attack for free agency.
Or perhaps you're one of those people who actually enjoy spending time with your family, and you've moved on with life until next year. I mean, if you're into having a healthy and balanced view of life and human interaction, then good for you, I suppose.
For the rest of us, who are gluttons for punishment, here is your preview of the big game:
Winning probabilities are from FiveThirtyEight's quarterback-adjusted ELO model.
Sad Fan Sunday
Time: 5:30 p.m. Arrowhead Time
Winning probability: Rams 68%
Preview: Here is a riddle for you: if a home team is playing in the visiting team's stadium, are they still the home team?
According to the NFL, the answer is yes.
The Los Angeles Rams will wake up in their own beds on Sunday, they will shower in their own bathroom and have breakfast with their wife and kids. Meanwhile, the Bengals players will be in a hotel room, and they'll probably have room service brought to their door before loading on the team bus and shuttling over to SoFi Stadium.
Despite being the home teams, the Bengals will not get to use the Rams locker room. As explained by Lindsay Jones and Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic, before knowing which teams would make it to the Super Bowl, the NFL had already decided locker room assignments.
Though the Bengals will be considered the home team — this is predetermined and rotates between the AFC and NFC each year — the Rams will be allowed to use their usual locker room inside SoFi Stadium.
And this isn’t some sort of special favor being afforded to them. Well before the Super Bowl teams were determined, the NFL had decided the AFC participant would use the Chargers’ locker room; the NFC participant would use the Rams’ space on the opposite side of the stadium.
“This stadium gives you the opportunity to just say, ‘Hey, everybody gets the exact same space,’” said Katie Keenan, the NFL’s senior director of live event operations.
It's a shame. I can't think of a bigger way to show your swag dominance than for Joe Burrow to take up residence in Rams quarterback Matt Stafford's locker and smoke a cigar if Cincinnati wins.
Heading west. Joe Burrow says he had never smoked a cigar before LSU national championship. May smoke 3 at once if he wins next Sunday #WhoDey #WHODEYNATION #bengals #Joe Burrow @Bengals #SuperBowl @SuperBowl pic.twitter.com/XASzVVwFBS— Gary Miller (@Local12Gary) February 7, 2022
As of the writing of this story, the Rams are a 4-point favorite to win the game, according to DraftKings Sportsbook.
Everything considered that line makes sense to me. The Rams were third in the NFL in sacks this season with 50.0. If you figure in Von Miller's 4.5 sacks he got before joining the Rams, they move up to No. 2, trailing only the Steelers, who had 55.0 sacks in 2021.
Given their sack numbers, it's not surprising that the Rams also posted the highest team pass rush win rate in the NFL at 53%. When you compare this with the Bengals, the 30th ranked pass-block win rate (49%), things start to look gloomy for Joe Burrow.
Now, when you flip things and look at them from another perspective, they don't look much better. This year, the Bengals had the 25th best pass rush win rate at 36%, while the Rams managed to come in first at pass block win rate at 68%.
Things look somewhat brighter for Cincinnati when you look at run blocking: the Bengals were 10th in the NFL in run-block win rate at 71%. But then you quickly realize the Rams were also first in run stop win rate at 35%.
That's been the story of this Bengals team — nobody expected them to be here.
In fact, the Bengals had the second-lowest preseason quarterback-adjusted ELO ranking of any team to make the Super Bowl since 1966. The only team to have a lower ELO ranking and make it to the Super Bowl was Kurt Warner and now-Pro Football Hall of Fame coach Dick Vermiel's 1999 Rams, who were dubbed 'the greatest show on turf.'
This Bengals team is dangerous because they are too young to know they don't belong here. At an average age of 25.8 years old, the Bengals are the youngest team to ever play in the Super Bowl.
The Bengals were built through the draft and are a testament to what hitting on early-round picks can do for your franchise. Nine of their top 10 players by approximate value were drafted in the first three rounds of the draft. Five of those players were drafted in the last three years (Joe Burrow, Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Jonah Williams, Germaine Pratt).
The moment the Rams traded for Stafford, they were in win-now mode. Talking heads all around the country crowned them kings before the season started — and for a good reason, too, as the Rams have legitimate superstars on both sides of the ball. Stafford gives Los Angeles the chance to get over the hump, and the Rams gave Stafford a chance to punch his ticket to Canton.
This is the biggest game of any of these players' careers — only time will tell who will answer the call and bring glory to their team and city.
My parting advice to a fan of either of these teams is this: You never know if your team is going to get back here.