2022 Super Bowl Odds, Picks, Predictions: Expert Cases For Both the Rams and Bengals To Cover the Spread
Getty Images. Pictured: Bengals QB Joe Burrow and Rams QB Matthew Stafford
2022 Super Bowl Odds
|Kickoff||6:30 p.m. ET|
|Odds via DraftKings. Find Super Bowl odds at more sportsbooks here.|
Historically, the team that wins the Super Bowl often covers, but which team has the edge against the spread?
Two of our expert analysts make dueling cases for betting the Rams vs. the Bengals to cover the 2022 Super Bowl spread below.
Case For Rams To Cover Super Bowl Spread
Brandon Anderson: In a game this big, it’s easy to focus too much on the tiniest details, but sometimes it’s important to zoom out and see the forest from the trees.
That’s where I have to start with the Rams and Bengals.
These may be the last two NFL teams standing, but that does not mean these are the best two NFL teams (or anywhere close to equal). The Rams are the significantly better team, and we have myriad metrics to tell us that. They were one of only two NFL teams to finish the season ranked inside the top eight of Football Outsiders’ offensive, defensive and special teams. The Rams are a well-rounded team that’s better in all three facets of the game than the Bengals, who ranked near average in all three metrics and overall.
The Bengals are the worst team the Rams will have played in a month.
Bengals believers will scream that the young team has gotten much better late in the season and during this postseason run, throwing out those metrics in the process, but I’m not sure that’s fair. Just look at their playoff games: The Bengals have been out-gained in each, eking out one-score victories thanks to game-sealing interceptions of opposing quarterbacks in the final minute of all three matchups, plus a 12-for-12 postseason record from a rookie kicker.
Contrast that luck with the Rams, who have looked convincingly better than three excellent opponents — all of whom rate much better than the forgettable Titans and Raiders squads the Bengals struggled against. Unlike the Bengals, the Rams out-gained all three of their playoff opponents, including twice by more than 100 yards. They’ve gained 1,199 yards and allowed only 824, a whopping 45% edge that includes almost 400 yards per game against three outstanding defenses and fewer than 275 yards allowed to three terrific offenses.
The Rams held a 28-0 lead over the Cardinals and 27-3 over the Bucs. And if you watched the 49ers game, you know the Rams were the much better team throughout that one, too.
The Rams were the better team all season long and have been far better in the playoffs, too. They’re better than the Bengals at most positions on both sides of the ball, plus have significant coaching and experience edges, too – especially at this stage in the postseason.
Credit Zac Taylor for getting his Bengals this far, but his 33.7% regular-season winning percentage on his 16-32-1 record is the worst by any coach in Super Bowl history, and his over-reliance on the run game and conservative decision-making have hurt the Bengals. Sean McVay has trended too conservative, too, but he’s a far better coach who has been on this stage before. The Rams also have two outstanding coordinators, both of whom were highly-coveted for head coach openings.
Rams-Bengals is a mismatch. And the biggest will come in the trenches.
This Bengals team allowed the most sacks in franchise history – and that doesn’t even count the fact they tied the NFL record for most sacks allowed in a postseason game with nine against the Titans. The Bengals offensive line has struggled all season, and now they will face their biggest challenge of the season since the Rams lead the league in ESPN’s Pass Rush Win Rate. Aaron Donald is an all-time great and should dominate on the interior, which will only make Von Miller and Leonard Floyd that much more dangerous in potential one-on-one matchups on the outside.
Joe Burrow has been awesome, but we saw in last season’s Super Bowl that quarterbacks are not the same under pressure all game.
This will be the toughest test for the Bengals offense this season. They faced the league’s easiest slate of opposing defenses, including only three ranked in the top 11 of Football Outsiders’ defensive DVOA – and they lost all three of those games while average around 10 fewer points. The Rams are the top-rated defense the Bengals will face all season. The Rams rank second in first-half defensive DVOA, plus second in run defense over the back half of the season.
The Bengals offense might need time to adjust and find its footing in this game, and although they’ve come back late in games before, this Rams defense is not the one the Bengals want to mount a comeback against.
Some fans are looking at the Bengals as a team of destiny. They have five wins this season by a field goal and have played one-score games virtually all season. They lucked into a sweet postseason draw thanks to good Colts and Chargers teams choking in Week 18, subsequently gifting the Bengals a soft opening matchup against the Raiders and a second-round matchup against the softest 1-seed in recent memory, then an unprecedented Patrick Mahomes collapse with the worst half of his career did the rest.
Credit to the Bengals for always doing just enough to get by, but that doesn’t mean I have to bet on them to do it again.
I don’t believe in destiny. I believe in the better team.
Case For Bengals To Cover Super Bowl Spread
Raheem Palmer: Although the Rams are seen as the better team by most metrics, it’s the Bengals who have the better resume this season.
The Bengals are 7-2 against playoff teams with both losses coming by three points in overtime (Packers 25-22 and 49ers 26-23). Meanwhile, the Rams are just 5-5 against playoff teams, with the average margin in these losses coming by 12.2 points.
Many will argue the Bengals were lucky to be here after overcoming a 21-3 halftime deficit against the Chiefs in the AFC Championship and benefiting from several Ryan Tannehill interceptions in the Divisional Round, but you could make the same argument against the Rams.
The Rams overcame a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit against the 49ers and capitalized on two beat-up offensive lines in the Cardinals and Bucs, and still almost snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by blowing a 27-3 lead with a series of errors in Tom Brady’s final game. Although the Rams made quick and easy work of the Cardinals, the Rams showed they were vulnerable against teams with a pulse. And while the Bucs and 49ers missed opportunities to make the Rams pay, the Bengals could capitalize if given the opportunity.
We’re looking at two teams that are closer than the betting market and the season-long metrics would indicate.
Although the Bengals have been out-gained in each of their playoff games, they enter this game as the NFL’s hottest team. Excluding Week 18 when they rested starters, they’ve gone 6-0 straight up and against the spread (ATS) the last six games, largely behind the arm of Joe Burrow, who has completed 73% of his passes with 13 touchdowns to just two interceptions — and that’s despite playing behind an offensive line that’s 31st in adjusted sack rate and has given up the third-most sacks (55) this season.
While much of the narrative is focused on the Rams defensive line facing this Bengals offensive line, it could be overstated.
Burrow was pressured on 41% of his dropbacks in the AFC Championship, but that translated to just one sack with Burrow getting the ball out quickly. This has been a notable trend whenever the Bengals face top-tier pass rushes, and I expect a similar game plan against a Rams defense anchored by Aaron Donald and Von Miller that ranks first in ESPN’s pass rush win rate.
While many believe this could be similar to last year’s Bucs-Chiefs Super Bowl in the sense that a dominant pass rush overcomes a bad offensive line, I’m not seeing it, as we saw this Bengals offense overcome Burrow getting sacked nine times by the Titans in the Divisional Round. Unlike last season’s Chiefs, the Bengals have their starting left tackle and dealing with pressure isn’t new for Burrow, so I’m not seeing a way in which he doesn’t find success.
The Rams are quite adept at translating pressure into sacks, but if they can’t get home to Burrow, blitzing him is out of the question. He’s fifth in Expected Points Added (EPA) per play vs. the blitz, and the Rams have blitzed 28.3% of the time with that number increasing to a whopping 51.7% this postseason.
Not only does Burrow perform well against the blitz and under pressure, where he has a 89.6 passer rating, he also has the ability to move out of the pocket and make plays when protection breaks down.
The Bengals will have to win through the air, as they’re unlikely to find success against a Rams defense that’s fourth in rush DVOA, but that hasn’t been an issue for a Bengals team that has averaged only 88 yards on the ground throughout the playoffs.
I expect the Bengals to win through the air as this Rams secondary is very beatable with injuries at safety. Although we’re likely to see Jalen Ramsey on Ja’Marr Chase, the Rams will still have to deal with Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd and potentially C.J. Uzomah, who practiced for the first time on Thursday since spraining his MCL in the AFC title game.
The Rams are also weak at linebacker, so it’s no surprise they’ve struggled to defend the middle of the field.
The Rams give up the fifth-most yardage on screen plays at 7.1 yards per reception, so while Joe Mixon could struggle to get going through the ground, there will be opportunities for him to make plays as Burrow looks to get the ball out quickly.
You could argue that the Bengals have underperformed this postseason, converting only three of 11 trips inside opponents’ 20-yard line into touchdowns — well below their season averages. Meanwhile, the Rams defense has given up touchdowns on 80% of opponent drives inside their 20, so I’m expecting positive regression for the Bengals’ red-zone offense
On the other side of the ball, the Bengals have the best turnover differential this postseason at +5 with six takeaways. While turnovers aren’t predictive, Matthew Stafford is often reckless with the football, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if he had a few giveaways.
After throwing eight interceptions during the final four regular-season games, Stafford played two clean games before the NFC Championship, when he threw a red-zone interception as well as a potential game-ending interception that was dropped.
The Bengals were ninth in Dropback EPA and 10th in Dropback Success Rate, and while they’ve played only the 14th-ranked schedule of opposing offenses, I’m not sure the full-season metrics capture what this unit has been during the postseason. Similar to Burrow, Stafford eats the blitz alive. But fortunately for the Bengals, they have experience with playing top tier quarterbacks who thrive against the blitz.
The Bengals rarely blitzed Patrick Mahomes, opting to send three rushers while dropping eight men into coverage, allowing a QBR of just 27.3 and 6.6 yards per attempt all while holding the Chiefs to just three points on their final eight possessions.
I’m not willing to believe that this Rams offense is as good as the Chiefs offense. And after the Bengals’ second-half defensive performance against Mahomes and a high-flying offense that looked unstoppable against the Bills, I’m upgrading this Bengals unit as its momentum could carry over here against Stafford, who has been known to implode under pressure.
The Rams should be favorites, but this number is too high.
I have this at Rams -2.5 based on full season and postseason numbers, so I’ll back the Bengals +4 and play them on the moneyline as they have a chance at winning outright. The Bengals are 8-3 ATS as underdogs, winning outright in seven of eight of their covers.
It’s tough to fade a team that has over-performed against the market as much as the Bengals have.
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