Live from Music Row Friday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed Dr. K. to the newsmaker line to explain his Super Bowl game predictions.
Leahy: Dr. K., it’s the big game on Sunday, the Super Bowl, the Los Angeles Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals. What do you have to tell us about your picks for that game?
Dr. K.: It’s going to be a great one, Michael. I’m so excited about watching it. It’s certainly built to a pretty significant crescendo. The Rams are four, four and a half, depending on where you’re looking. The over and under is 49 and a half.
And so what I thought I’d do is I’d try to take each one of the elements of the game and see if we can compare the two teams. And so let’s start with the quarterback. We’ve got Matthew Stafford good early, a little less later.
He threw NFL-high 17 interceptions with three pick-sixes. Burrow has been pretty consistent throughout. And of course, the playoffs have just been unbelievable, what he has been able to accomplish. When you look in the playoffs, Stafford had a 72 percent completion rate. Burrow is 68, 69.
He threw for 301 yards, Burrow’s 280 touchdown passes, six for Stafford, four for Burrow, one interception for Stafford, and two for Burrow. In my opinion, that’s advantage Cincinnati. But I’m telling you, the quarterback, believe it or not, isn’t where the Super Bowl is going to be decided.
Let’s look at running backs. The Rams have Cam Akers and Sony Michel, and the Bengals have Joe Mixon, and the Rams are averaging 2.9 yards to carry. The Bengals are almost four at 3.8. And Mixon had a career year with 1,205 yards rushing at 16 touchdowns.
And so clearly, in my opinion, there, you’ve got advantage Cincinnati. Now let’s look at receivers. There’s no one on the field that’s going to compare to Cooper Kupp. As everybody knows, he is outstanding. But then I’ve also got a guy who comes out of retirement … Odell Beckham Jr., and Van Jefferson is not too bad.
Now Cincinnati has, everybody knows Ja’marr Chase, Tee Higgins, not too bad, and Tyler Boyd, but nobody is going to stop Cooper Kupp. He’s the only player ever to notch 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns. I mean, Chase has had a great season, but he quite simply is no Cooper Kupp.
So here again, we have to give an advantage to the Rams. Now when we take a look at the offensive line, here’s where the rubber meets the road. Cincinnati’s offensive line is a real concern. The Titans proved that with nine sacks and you say yeah, but they still won the game, and right you are. Burrow was sacked a league-high 51 times, and that’s just in the regular season. On the other side, the Rams’ offensive line ranked first and pass block win rate. What is the pass block win rate?
Well, that’s how often an offensive line gives up pressure in the first two and a half seconds after the snap. So there again, we have to look at the offensive line being so much better. Advantage Rams. Now let’s take a peek at the defense.
Nobody wants to face the Rams’ front seven. No doubt about it. Aaron Donald, Von Miller, Greg Gaines, Troy Reeder, these guys are absolutely fabulous defensive players. Granted, Cincinnati has played pretty well.
But look what they did to Patrick Mahomes. They drove him absolutely crazy. They sacked him four times. Even still, I’m going to give the advantage to the Rams’ defensive secondary … again, the advantage to the Rams, because you’ve got Jalen Ramsey, you’ve got Darius Williams and Eric Wendell who came late. Mike Hilton is certainly a terrific secondary player. Trey Flowers is and Vonn Bell.
But again, I think the Rams are clearly the better in those two elements. Then you have to look at special teams. Clearly, this is a Bengal plus with Evan McPherson. He’s got ice water in his veins. He’s 12 out of 12 in post-season kicks.
And so I’m going to give the Bengals the look there, and then finally, and I’ve always said there are two things that you have to look at in order to decide who’s going to win a football game, you’ve got to look at your quarterback and you’ve got to look at your coaching.
We’ve already talked about the difference in quarterback, but let’s look at this coaching change. Zach Taylor certainly has done a great job. No question about it. He got the Bengals here. A great coach. Sean McVay is a completely different type of coach.
He’s truly one of the NFL’s top coaches. In 2017, he was coach of the year. He’s now headed to his second Super Bowl. So in my opinion, not casting any aspersions on Zack Taylor, he’s done a fabulous job. I think Sean McVay is the better of the two coaches, certainly from an experience perspective.
So when you summarize all that’s been said in the last few minutes, your quarterback, you had the Cincinnati Bengals given the look. Running back the Bengals, the Rams get the receivers, the offensive line, the defensive line, the defensive secondary, and coaching.
It’s a 5-3 knock-off here, and in my opinion, I think that’s going to be what’s enough to carry the Rams to cover a four-point spread. And I would be very cautious about this 49 and a half – that’s a big number, and you’re looking for an awful lot of offense here in a Super Bowl where there’s a tremendous number of distractions. And so I would say that I would take the Rams minus the four. If you can catch three and a half, it’s even better. I’d stay away from the over and under, and that’s my summary.
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