Workers make last-minute preparations on the SoFi Stadium field for Sunday's LVI Super Bowl in Inglewood, Calif., on Saturday. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo
LOS ANGELES, Feb. 13 (UPI) -- Young leaders hope to bring the Cincinnati Bengals their first championship in Super Bowl LVI on Sunday in Inglewood, Calif., while veteran stars try to help coach Sean McVay seek redemption from a 2019 title game loss.
The Rams, who will play on their home field at SoFi Stadium, are 4.5-point favorites.
"The job is not finished," Bengals tight end C.J. Uzomah said Thursday in a virtual news conference. "We still have to go out and execute and win a game.
More than 70,000 fans are expected to attend. Most of them spent thousands of dollars for a ticket to watch the action inside a new, $5.5 billion roofed stadium.
The least expensive ticket prices for the game were about $3,000 on the secondary market as of Thursday afternoon.
But it's not only football that draws so many people willing to pay so much. The halftime show will feature legendary artists Eminem, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar and Mary J. Blige.
Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford is favored to win the MVP award, but Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow isn't far behind. Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp, Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald and Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase are among the other expected MVP contenders.
Look for a relatively high-scoring game, with the expected point total at 48.5.
"We are ready to play," Donald said. "The past is the past. We know what we are going up against. I'm ready and I'm excited. Let's go out there Sunday and compete."
Battle of quarterbacks
Burrow, a former No.1 overall draft pick, will become the first quarterback to start a Super Bowl within his first two seasons.
On the other sideline will be Stafford, a 13-year veteran. The long-time Detroit Lions star joined the Rams this off-season after he requested to be traded. He had an 0-3 record in the playoffs during his dozen-year tenure in Detroit.
"It means a lot to me to get to this point in my career," Stafford said. "It's been a lot of fun. I'm just trusting my preparation."
Donald will attempt to add to his legacy as one of the NFL's All-Time greats. The three-time Defensive Player of the Year spoke several times during Super Bowl week about a Lombardi Trophy being the only accolade he lacks.
McVay wasn't the only Rams coach on the wrong end of the team's Super Bowl loss in 2019 to the New England Patriots. Bengals coach Zac Taylor was the Rams' quarterbacks coach that season.
Taylor and McVay remain friends, as do several other coaches who were on that staff and who moved on to other coaching positions. Taylor said he never was able to fully "process" the 2019 loss because he started his new job as Bengals coach less than 24 hours after that game.
"I learned a lot from Sean," Taylor said. "I'm really appreciative of my two years I spent there, not only from a scheme standpoint, but just interacting with players, practice habits and meetings.
"I think he really influenced a lot of us coaches who went elsewhere. "
Taylor will attempt to deliver the franchise its first championship. The Bengals last reached Super Bowl XXIII in 1989, but lost 20-16 to Joe Montana and the San Francisco 49ers. They also appeared in the Super Bowl XVI in 1982, losing 26-21 to Montana and the 49ers.
Bengals fans might feel the pain from years of franchise futility, but Burrow told reporters that his teammates don't feel pressured by the the Bengals' lackluster past. In fact, he said, young Bengals players "don't understand" the historical significance of their playoff run.
McVay said at another virtual media session that he remembers how he felt after his 2019 Super Bowl loss. He said he learned lessons, including to enjoy the process and not overprepare, that he is applying to Sunday's game plan.
The Bengals went 10-7 in the regular season, ranking No. 7 in offensive points scored and No. 13 in offensive yards. Their passing offense, led by Burrow, ranked No. 7 in yards. The Bengals rushing offense ranked No. 23.
The Bengals defense ranked 18th in yards allowed. They ranked 26th against the pass and fifth against the run.
"I think our defense has played tremendously exceptional football over the course of the season," Taylor said. "They don't get the praise they deserve, but all those 11 guys play so well together, you never know who is going to make the play.
The Rams went 12-5 this season. They ranked ninth in offensive yards gained and 17th in yards allowed. The Rams passed for the fifth-most yards and ranked 25th in rushing yards. They ranked 22nd in passing yards allowed, but allowed the second-fewest passing touchdowns.
All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey leads that secondary. He told reporters earlier this week he requested a matchup with top Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase.
The Rams allowed the sixth fewest rushing yards.
The Bengals allowed 55 sacks. The Rams allowed 31. The Rams defense totaled 50 sacks, led by Donald's 12.5. The Bengals defense totaled 42, led by Pro Bowl defensive end Trey Hendrickson's 14.
"Every week is a new week, every game a new game," Donald said. "We still gotta go out there compete, perform and do what we gotta do to make plays."
The Bengals, the No. 4 seed from the AFC, only were favorites in one of their previous three playoff games. They opened their postseason run with a win over the Las Vegas Raiders, which snapped a 31-year winless playoff drought for the franchise.
They then picked up three-point upset wins over the top-seeded Tennessee Titans and No. 2 Kansas City Chiefs to reach the Super Bowl.
The Rams, the No. 4 seed from the NFC, were favored in two of their three previous playoff games. They started their run with a 23-point win over the Arizona Cardinals. They then beat Tom Brady's Tampa Bay Buccaneers by three points in the divisional round.
The Rams also beat the San Francisco 49ers by three points in the NFC Championship game to reach their second Super Bowl in four seasons.
"You get into a situation like this to play for a world championship because your best players play like they are capable of, and they play at their best when their best is required," McVay said.
"The Bengals have been great in the crunch time moments and I think our guys have, as well."
Super Bowl LVI will air at 6:30 p.m. EST Sunday on NBC.
Pepsi Super Bowl LVI halftime show performers, left to right, Snoop Dogg, Mary J. Blige and Dr. Dre stand together after the halftime show press conference for Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles on February 10, 2022. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo