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The 2022 NFL season is reaching its climax, and as things stand Super Bowl LVII is anyone’s for the taking. That championship game will take place on February 12th inside Arizona’s 63,000-capacity State Farm Stadium, but who will face off in Glendale remains anyone’s guess.
Based on football betting lines, the Buffalo Bills and Philadelphia Eagles remain the favorites to battle it out for the Lombardi Trophy in the new year. But with Patrick Mahomes’ Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers both also in contention, the league is truly wide open with just a handful of games remaining.
The reigning champions are the Los Angeles Rams. They defeated the Cincinnati Bengals on home turf back in February to win the Super Bowl for the first time in over 20 years. And they had their superstar Wide Receiver Cooper Kupp to thank for the success.
The 29-year-old former Eastern Washington University standout was awarded the MVP award thanks to 92 receiving yards including two touchdowns. And the second of those was the match winner. With the Rams trailing deep into the fourth quarter, quarterback Matthew Stafford found Kupp in the end zone with barely 25 seconds of regulation time remaining to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
This season, however, their attempt to retain the trophy couldn’t have gone any worse. Sean McVay’s side currently sits rock bottom of the NFC West with an appalling record of 3-8. As such, they are one team that will certainly not be featuring in the postseason playoffs.
That is one thing we can be certain of. But what else can we see during the business end of the current NFL campaign?
Cincinnati Bengals will make it to the latter stages of the playoffs
The team that the LA Rams defeated at Super Bowl LVI was of course the Cincinnati Bengals. The Ohio-based outfit reached the playoffs last season for the first time since 2015 and their victory over the Las Vegas Raiders was their first postseason victory since 1990. But they weren’t finished there.
The Bengals would defeat the Tennessee Titans in the divisional round before stunning the Chiefs away from home in overtime to punch their ticket to a first Super Bowl since 1988. But just as it did back then – which triggered a losing curse up until 2005 – their trip to the championship game ended in heartbreak. As such, the franchise remains one of the sides left without a Super Bowl victory to their name.
And it looked like memories of that setback crept into the back of their mind during the opening weeks of the 2022 season. The Bengals lost their opening game of the campaign at home to their rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers. To make matters worse, placekicker Evan McPherson – who had never missed a kick for the team – had two field goal opportunities to win the game… he missed both.
Further disappointments were just around the corner, with defeats on the road against the Dallas Cowboys, Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns leaving their plans for the season in tatters. But in recent weeks, they have gone from strength to strength.
Quarterback Joe Burrow is the beating heart of the team. He currently sits in third place in terms of throwing yards and touchdowns thrown, sat just behind Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen. The 25-year-old is a national college champion after winning the 2020 College Football Playoff National Championship with LSU, and he has inspired his side to five wins in their last six games.
We expect the Bengals to continue in the same vein, and perhaps reach the conference championship game. We wouldn’t hang our hat on them going any further than that though.
Fifth time lucky for the Bills
In the early 90s, there was one team that stood head and shoulders above the rest. With their fast-paced no-huddle offense, the Buffalo Bills reached four consecutive Super Bowls between 1991 and 1994. They remain the only team in history to achieve such a feat.
Inexplicably, however, they lost all four. But three decades on from their golden era, the Bills are finally back, and they mean business.
It’s clear to see why they are the favorites for the Lombardi Trophy this season. In quarterback Josh Allen, they have one of the league’s finest players. And with a supporting cast consisting of wide receiver Stefon Diggs and safety Micah Hyde, the New York state-based outfit are finally back where they belong.
Sean McDermott’s side currently sits second in the AFC East, level with the Miami Dolphins, who have stunned everyone with their performances this season. But with the pair facing off on December 18th, the Bills should take top spot in the division and secure safe passage to the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season.
Their last two trips to the postseason have been ended by Mahomes and his Chiefs. But the Bills finally got a win over their nemesis earlier in the campaign – on enemy territory no less – and we expect them to do the same once again in the playoffs, which should see them seal their spot in the Super Bowl.
Whether they can put the memories of the 90s behind them in the Arizona showpiece, however, remains to be seen.