Rams vs. Bengals
Storyline: Everything You're Not
Joe Burrow is from Ohio and watched the Bengals suck for so many years. The last time the Bengals won a playoff game was in 1991, five years before Joe Burrow was even born, which was in 1996. He had never seen the Bengals win a playoff game until he was drafted to the Bengals, and he did it himself. In just two years, he changed the culture, steadied the ship, and battled back from a season ending knee injury. Now, Burrow has his team playing for all the marbles.
However, it was no secret that Joe Burrow was going to be drafted to the Bengals. Everyone knew it was going to happen before it actually did. Many people said he should force his way out or take another year in college to try to get on a better team. Obviously, Joe didn't listen to those people. As a result, he is playing in the Super Bowl, but that isn't the way the story goes for most number one picks.
Matthew Stafford was also drafted number one overall. He also tried to change the culture. However, after twelve seasons with the Lions, Stafford had zero playoff wins, and his career was wasting away. After giving everything he had to the Lions for twelve years, and getting nothing back, Stafford got a rare opportunity. He got traded to the Rams, which meant the entire NFL would finally be made aware of what the NFC North had known for twelve years. Stafford is elite.
Stafford proved all his supporters correctly in the playoffs by outdueling Tom Brady, Kyler Murray, and finally beating the 49ers. Stafford didn't just rectify his playoff record. He earned his first trip to the Super Bowl and a shot at immortality. In one season, Stafford can write his Hall of Fame ticket. He just has to win one more game.
However, he won't be facing just any other team. He will be facing everything he left behind in Detroit. Burrow is doing what he couldn't, lifting up his team without leaving for a better organization. Stafford can't leave the Lions and lose to someone in the same situation he left.
On the flip side, Burrow will be facing his possible future. If he can't get the job done, who knows when he will ever get another shot. Burrow might not get another bite until he's near Stafford's side of the career line. Who knows? Bengals and Rams represent everything that the other team isn't. Burrow was drafted to the Bengals, and so was most of their talent like Joe Mixon, Tee Higgins and C.J. Uzomah. These guys know what it was like to suck. The Rams have a lot of players who were acquired through big trades, who have something to prove to their old teams like Odell Beckham Jr., Jalen Ramsey, Matthew Stafford, Von Miller, and Sony Michel.
It's not often that games not only entertain us, but teach us something. The NFL is a copycat league. This game will impact the way franchises are built going forward. I think we are all waiting to see who was right. Will it be Joe Burrow staying in Cincinnati, changing the culture, and winning the Super Bowl? Or will it be the Rams trading for the best players, going to get Stafford, and betting on themselves and winning it all?