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Super Bowl Picks and Predictions: Cincinnati's Storybook Run Ends Short

The Cincinnati Bengals return to the Super Bowl for the first time since the 1980s, doing so as improbable underdogs overcoming odds at every turn. Our betting picks break down whether or not they can conquer the mighty Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl 56.

Last Updated: Feb 13, 2022 3:32 PM ET Read Time: 5 min

With kickoff right around the corner is the Cincinnati Bengals' fairytale story about to come crumbling down on the grandest stage of all?

Super Bowl LVI has the vibe of a classic “David vs. Goliath” tale, as the Cinderella Bengals aim to best the glitz of the Los Angeles Rams. To heighten the drama, this battle will play out on the Rams' home turf at SoFi Stadium. 

Super Bowl odds hit the books with Los Angeles listed as a 4-point NFL betting favorite for tonight's Big Game. That rose to -4.5 at some sportsbooks, with the bulk of the early money siding with the Rams, before Cincy rode a wave of support, moving back down. The Bengals, who have snared the greater ticket count, defeated a duo of top AFC seeds en route to the Super Bowl.

Now, the question becomes whether our free NFL picks and predictions for Bengals vs. Rams expect the underdogs to emerge with this postseason's ultimate victory — find out below.

Bengals vs Rams odds

This odds widget represents the best odds available for each betting market from regulated sportsbooks.

Los Angeles opened between -3.5 and -4.5 following the NFC Championship Game and the market reached a consensus of Rams -4 as of Monday morning. However, while ticket count stacked up on Cincinnati as an underdog, bigger bets landed on L.A. and moved this spread to as high as -4.5 as of Tuesday afternoon. Los Angeles can be had as low as -4 (-105) at online books.

The total also moved, opening at 50 points and quickly dropping to 49 in the first 12 hours of action. That number has since slimmed to as low as 48 points, with early opinions on the Under. There is a good chance this number ticks up closer to kickoff, as the Over is a popular play with recreational bettors on Super Sunday.

Use the live odds widget above to track any future line movements right up until kickoff and be sure to check out the full NFL odds before placing your bets.

Bengals vs Rams predictions

Predictions made on 2/1/2022 at 4:30 p.m. ET.
Click on each prediction to jump to the full analysis.

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Bengals vs Rams game info

Location: SoFi Stadium, Inglewood, CA
Date: Sunday, February 13, 2022
Time: 6:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBC

Bengals vs Rams betting preview

Key injuries

Bengals: Tyler Higbee TE (Questionable), Taylor Rapp FS (Questionable), Joe Noteboom T (Questionable).
Rams: C.J. Uzomah TE (Questionable), Josh Tupou DT (Questionable), Cameron Sample DE (Questionable).
Find our latest NFL injury reports.

Betting trend to know

The Under is 27-10-1 in Rams' last 38 games as favorites. Find more NFL betting trends for Bengals vs. Rams.

Bengals vs Rams picks and predictions

Our predictions are compiled from the analysis of the spread and total and are indications of where we are leaning for this game.
Our best bet is the play that we like the most for this game, which we would actually put some of our bankroll behind.

Spread analysis

With the spread opening as low as Rams -3.5, moving to -4, and now sitting as high as -4.5, there’s not too much of a difference between those spreads. But four points is the most common margin of victory (4.85% since 2000) outside of the standard key numbers in football betting (3, 6, 7, 10, and 14), so we’ll grab the lowest spread on L.A. we can find as of Tuesday afternoon.

Respect is given to the Bengals, who knocked off the top two seeds in the AFC on the road, but Cincinnati’s Cinderella run has somewhat played with fire in the postseason. The Bengals have been outgained in all three playoff games so far (1,012 yards to 1,113 yards) and have looked far from a championship-caliber club for a full 60 minutes of action, especially in those last two outings.

Cincinnati has benefitted from key takeaways at the perfect times to help seal those wins, but still has fatal flaws remaining from the regular season that have been amplified in the playoffs. Protecting star quarterback Joe Burrow is one of those sore spots.

Burrow was sacked an NFL-high 51 times in the regular season and has suffered a dozen sacks in the playoffs, nine of which came against a Tennessee pass rush that recorded 43 sacks on the year. Last weekend, Burrow went down just once vs. the Chiefs but was hurried on a number of plays, forcing him to throw the ball away or scramble for yards on the ground. His offensive line, which sits 31st in adjusted sack rate, has a tall task of containing the Rams' vaunted pass rush (No. 1 in pass rush win rate at 53%) on Super Sunday.

Los Angeles had 50 sacks in the regular season and has recorded only five so far in three postseason outings, but that defensive front remains just as disruptive by hurrying opposing passers into bad throws and knocking down balls at the line. That’s halted those rival offenses from finding a rhythm and has led to L.A.’s defensive success on third down in the postseason.

Los Angeles has allowed its postseason foes to convert on just under 19% of their third-down attempts over the past three games and sits No. 1 in EPA allowed per play on those crucial third-down snaps at -0.996. The Rams built those numbers against some solid third-down offenses as well, with the 49ers, Bucs, and Cardinals all Top 10 in DVOA on third downs at Football Outsiders.

The Bengals (No. 14 in third down DVOA) have found themselves in plenty of third-and-long situations during their improbable run to the Super Bowl, owning a 48.78% conversion rate on third downs, including an 8-for-14 effort in the AFC title game. On the year, the Bengals moved the chains on 41.13% of third-down attempts.

With the Rams’ pressure forcing the Bengals to burn plays on throwaways, sacks, and first down runs, those third-down situations will show up a lot in the Super Bowl. If L.A. can keep ushering its opponent off the field on those key snaps, Cincinnati won’t be able to gain the momentum it needs to put this Los Angeles stop unit on its heels.

If you’re leaning toward L.A. in Super Bowl LVI but aren’t crazy about laying the points, the Rams moneyline could be a simple option but may scare away some at the -200 price tag. However, with the Big Game underdog always a popular outright pick among casual gamblers, you can wait until closer to kickoff and see how cheap the Rams moneyline sinks.

Prediction: Rams -4 (-105)

Over/Under analysis

This Over/Under opened as big as 50 points and early play on the Under has slimmed the total to as low as 48. The lookahead total for this matchup — before the championship games Sunday — was 51.5 points and considering the passing prowess on both sides, a 50-plus finish doesn’t seem too far out of reach in Super Bowl LVI.

With that said, if you’re backing the Rams in the Big Game, you’re likely leaning on the L.A. defense to get the job done and don’t want to see a shootout with this dangerous Bengals receiving corps. And neither does Rams coach Sean McVay.

McVay, never shy about running the football, could opt to play a little defense on offense and expose one of Cincinnati’s greatest weaknesses with the Bengals allowing seven of its last eight opponents to crack the century mark on the ground.

Kansas City rumbled for 139 yards on 24 carries versus the Bengals in the AFC Championship, sinking Cincy’s EPA allowed per rush metric to -0.011 since Week 12 with those rival running backs owning a 49.2% success rate per rush in that span (30th).

Los Angeles’ rushing attack has been far from strong in the postseason — ranked out dead last in EPA per carry — but it has run into some tough stop units in those games, with Tampa Bay, San Francisco, and Arizona all Top 10 in Defensive DVOA and sitting No. 1, No. 2 and No. 4 respectively in EPA allowed per rush on the season.

The Rams were able to get RB Cam Akers in the lineup for the playoffs after he missed the entire regular season with an Achilles injury and have a shot of also returning Darrell Henderson to that rushing corps after he went down with a knee sprain in Week 16. Alongside Sony Michel, Los Angeles could have a potential trio of baller carriers to exploit Cincinnati’s defensive shortcomings.

A ground-and-pound approach could milk time of possession for Los Angeles, limiting the amount of touches Burrow gets with the football. And when the Cincinnati offense is on the field, Burrow won't have time in the pocket to allow bigger plays to develop if the Rams' pass rush closes in. 

Burrow was left to make many intermediate throws versus Kansas City, posting an average of just 6.6 yards per attempt – his second-lowest single-game average of the season. As for the postseason, Burrow’s yards per pass attempt is at 7.7, which is more than a yard lower than his regular-season production, and L.A. will be protecting against home run plays over the top.

The best of this total is gone… for now. Super Bowl betting patterns often see a surge of Under money drop the total before it slowly rises back up the week of the Super Bowl as public money is hoping for a high-scoring finale. With Matthew Stafford and Burrow headlining, that won’t be a tough sell. And once that number does rise, there's usually late action on the Under again closer to kickoff.

Prediction: Under 48.5 (-110)

Best bet

First quarter Unders have been a popular play among “smart” Super Bowl bettors for a while now, which is why we’re seeing some bookmakers shade this total all over the place. 

DraftKings has the 1Q total at 7.5 (Over -115) while FanDuel offers 10 (Under -170). But just like Goldilocks tasting porridge, breaking chairs, and sleeping in strangers' beds, online books have this derivative total “just right” at 9.5 (Under -120).

It’s really been feast or famine in first quarters since 2011, with 10 or more points scored in the opening 15 minutes of the Super Bowl in six of those 11 games. There have also been three goose eggs in that span.

So, how does this shakedown for the Bengals and Rams? 

Cincinnati scored just a field goal in the first quarter of the AFC Championship and is averaging 6.3 1Q points in the playoffs — an uptick from its regular-season output of 3.9 first-quarter points per contest. The Bengals also run one of the slowest offensive tempos in the league (30th), with 29.75 seconds between plays, and own the 12th best defensive DVOA in first quarters.

Los Angeles came out swinging in its first two postseason games, amassing 17 total 1Q tallies in wins over Arizona and Tampa Bay before a blank scoreboard after 15 minutes in the NFC title game (thanks in part to a Stafford INT in the end zone). The Rams averaged 3.7 points per first quarter during the regular season — behind a slower first-half pace in play calling from McVay — while the defense ranked No. 3 in 1Q defensive DVOA and allowed only a field goal per opening frame. 

My narrative for betting the Under the first-quarter total in the Super Bowl is based more on nerves and excitement than stats. We often see quarterbacks and receivers a little tight in the opening offensive series of the Super Bowl, with some overthrown balls and bad drops. On the defensive side, guys are jacked up and playing with extra pop in those opening minutes after waiting two weeks to hit someone. 

I’m banking on that being the case on February 13, as we have some younger talent featured on both teams as well as two head coaches who are known to be extra-conservative at times. No one wants to make that first mistake, so we’re banking on careful playcalling and a slow start to Super Bowl LVI.

Pick: First quarter Under 9.5 (-120) 

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