MIKE BURKE

Allegany Radio Corporation Sports

Here is my annual Super Bowl preview column – not a prediction column – even though, for varying circumstances, I haven’t had one for a few years. Don’t worry about it, though, it’s like riding a bicycle. Or so I’ve been told.

Okay, we already had a preview Super Bowl preview column this week, but its incompleteness was pointed out to me because I neglected to mention the halftime show.

So now we’ll talk a little halftime: The last Super Bowl halftime show I remember (key word) watching was the Bruce Springstreen halftime show. And I really enjoyed it. Watched it at When Pigs Fly. Really good Super Bowl halftime show. Okay, as for the game …

I like the Rams. They are solid, they are steady, they are sound, they are well coached, they have a hungry big-play quarterback in Matthew Stafford, who is not only the sentimental favorite for all of his years of toil in Detroit, but who is capable of the whole works on any play.

And, yes, they are playing the NFL championship game on their home field in front of their home fans. Of course, as Conan O’Brien said, “It will be interesting to see if L.A. Rams fans are willing to travel all the way to L.A. to see the Super Bowl.”

The Rams were 3.5-point favorites as of Thursday, which is one less than what they were favored by on Wednesday, which is interesting if you’re interested in how betting affects #NFLTheTVShow; and I have been since Super Bowl 3. The over, meanwhile, remained at 48.5.

Still, I have a feeling about the Bengals. They are ornery, they are aggressive, they are reckless, they have great downfield receivers and a brash young cigar-smoking quarterback in Joe Burrow, who won a Heisman Trophy, a national championship and a berth in the Super Bowl in the last three years. He personifies a team attitude and an approach that says they cannot be trusted because they do not care. At times they are nearly impossible to defend and to stop.

The Bengals are explosive, they are dangerous, they are annoying and they don’t go away. As steady and solid, and deep, as the Rams are, I wouldn’t want to be playing this Cincinnati group.

However, watch for the play of the Cincinnati offensive line, which, at times in the playoffs has been leaky to say the least. If the Bengals can keep Aaron Donald, Von Miller and the rest of the gang out of Burrow’s hair and Burrow off of his back, it behooves their chances a great deal. Could be a big if, though.

When you think of the Bengals, you think Burrow and the wide receivers, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd and Ja’Marr Chase, who former Bengals great wide receiver Cris Collinsworth said this week is already the best wide receiver in Bengals history, which, given their receiving history, is saying something.

However, the Rams don’t go without themselves, as Cooper Kupp, Odell Beckham Jr. and Van Jefferson, as well as tight end Tyler Higbee size up as a pretty dangerous bunch as well.

I have no dog in the hunt, nor do I have an opinion on who will win or enough interest to form one. Part of me wants to see the Bengals win another title for the AFC North. Part of me also finds this Bengals team to be quite distasteful. I suppose somebody here should be adult about things, but …

I do, however, believe the shrinking point spread is something to take into consideration.

As for the Rams, I do not dislike the Rams at all, though I did in the mid and late 1960s when they were the Baltimore Colts’ biggest rival in something that was called the Coastal Division. Yes, the Baltimore Colts and the Los Angeles Rams were actually in the same division once, as were the San Francisco 49ers, Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints. Seriously.

I guess if I did have a particular hope for the game, it would be for the Rams to win and for former Damascus High and University of Maryland running back Jake Funk to score the winning touchdown.

That would be kind of funky in an L.A. kind of ‘60s-70s way (see what I did there?). It would also be pretty cool.

Honestly, it feels as though this is going to be a great Super Bowl. As my sainted mother always said, “We shall see.” Or, as my uncle Bill used to say, “Pass the bean dip, Tiger.”

Bean dip, Bill always said, makes you mean, and he also always called everybody Tiger and, yes, if you’re looking for a silly off-the-cuff omen, the Bengal is a tiger and Joe Burrow is a former LSU Bengal Tiger. Oh, and 2022 is a Year of the Tiger according to the Chinese zodiac. So there’s that.

Here’s just hoping the game will be a great one. It sure looks like it can be.

The halftime show sure does, too …

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Radio and Pikewood Digital. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT