The city of Cincinnati is currently in uncharted territory. A large portion of the Cincinnati Bengals’ fan base had never witnessed playoff success until this season. Now, they’re about to watch their team in the Super Bowl.
And for the journalists working in town, the Bengals gave them plenty to report on in the past. Players like Carson Palmer and Chad Johnson/Ochocinco made sure of that. But many of them had never covered a deep playoff run prior to this season.
So, ahead of the 2022 Super Bowl between the Bengals and Los Angeles Rams, we talked to those who have followed this Cincy team through all its ups and downs: journalists and media personalities from the city.
A lot of love for Joe Burrow and what he means to the Bengals
When looking at the Bengals’ miraculous run this year, quarterback Joe Burrow has meant more to their success than any other player.
After an injury-shortened rookie season in which his Cincy squad only went 4-11-1, Burrow won the 2021 AP NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award with 4,611 passing yards, 34 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions.
He has also been tremendous in the playoffs with 842 yards, four touchdowns, and two picks in three victories, leading the Bengals to two upset wins over the No. 1-seeded Tennessee Titans and two-time reigning AFC champion Kansas City Chiefs.
So, if Cincinnati wants to win its biggest game since the 1988 campaign (the last time the team made the Super Bowl), Burrow will need to be Joe Brrr, Joe Shiesty, Joey Franchise, or whatever you want to call him.
“Joe Burrow is the reason the Bengals can win,” Fox19 sports director Joe Danneman said to Sportscasting. “Not just because he’s an accurate passer, a playmaker, and a great thinker, but I think his confidence empowers his teammates. Joe Burrow carries himself on the right side of arrogance, and that permeates the team. It’s rare for a team this young and this inexperienced to be in a position like this so quickly, but Joe Burrow – and his confidence – is just so hard to beat. He hasn’t lost a playoff game on the highest levels of football – not at LSU and not in the NFL. With that kind of difference-maker at the most important position in sports, the Bengals have a great chance of winning every game they play.”
There were a lot of questions surrounding Burrow’s knee before the season. He injured it in Week 11 of 2020 and spent a good portion of the offseason rehabbing it. However, he has put all those concerns to bed, getting stronger and stronger throughout the year.
“Joe Burrow certainly gives the Bengals more than a shot,” 700WLW and ESPN1530 host Lance McAlister said. “His growing confidence in his knee in the second half of the season has expanded his game to include escapability in the pocket and the ability to make plays with his legs, rushing for four first downs in the AFC Championship Game.”
Aaron Donald gives everyone hesitation
The biggest concern for the Bengals heading into the game is how their offensive line will hold up. It allowed 51 sacks on Burrow this year, the most in the NFL. The Tennessee Titans also took him down a whopping nine times in the Divisional Round.
Who will they face in the Super Bowl? Two of the greatest defensive lineman ever in Aaron Donald and Von Miller.
“Schematically and personnel-wise, the Rams represent the biggest challenge the Bengals have faced in the postseason,” ESPN1530 host Mo Egger said. “Their defensive line is excellent, and Aaron Donald is terrifying. It’s hard not to think about Joe Burrow getting sacked nine times and wonder what kind of damage Donald might inflict.”
For McAlister, he made it simple: “Aaron Donald is a baaaaaad man.”
But he also pointed to the fact that this isn’t a new challenge for the Bengals.
“The OL issues are not new; the Bengals have had to work around them all season. They are still here, playing for a Super Bowl championship,” he said.
Can the Bengals win their first Super Bowl in franchise history?
No one picked the Bengals to win the Super Bowl before the year began. The Rams, on the other hand, have essentially been championship or bust since the offseason.
So, will Cincy upset LA on Sunday? (Burrow doesn’t like the “underdog” narrative, but it’s the simple fact of the matter.)
The experts around the Queen City think they can.
“I do think the Bengals can win because of their ability to win close games,” longtime WLWT sports anchor George Vogel said. “This should be a close one, and Joe Burrow combined with Evan McPherson has proven to be some late-game magic. In addition, the defense is playing its best football right now.”
Egger believes it will come down to turnovers, but he’s predicting a 30-27 Bengals win.
“Burrow is going to get hit, and he will be sacked. So far in the postseason, though, the pressure he’s faced hasn’t resulted in turnovers,” he said. “… It’s simple, really. The Bengals are 12-1 in games in which they don’t lose the turnover battle and 1-6 when they do. The good news for them is they’ve been taking care of the football recently, and the defense has been just opportunistic enough. I say it continues on Super Sunday.”
Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference