Given how this postseason has transpired, especially the divisional round and conference championship games, the inclination is to think Super Bowl 56 between the Bengals and Rams will be a thrilling affair. Joe Burrow, Matt Stafford

Joe Burrow, Matthew Stafford Highlight Super Bowl Matchup

Given how this postseason has transpired, especially the divisional round and conference championship games, the inclination is to think Super Bowl 56 between the Bengals and Rams will be a thrilling affair.

Let’s hope. After all, there is nothing more deflating than a highly anticipated game, no matter what it might be, that gets out of hand before the first couple of adult beverages are consumed.

One thing is certain, and that is both quarterbacks, Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow and Los Angeles’ Matthew Stafford, have taken center stage in leading their respective teams to this point. Both teams are also battle-tested, having played plenty of edge-of-your-seat, down-to-the-wire football.

The Bengals, who are participating in their first Super Bowl in 34 years – How many times will NBC flashback to Boomer Esiason and the Ickey Shuffle on Sunday? – arrived on this stage by winning their three playoff games by a combined 13 points. Included in their string of dramatic finishes was a 52-yard field goal by former Florida Gator and playoff hero Evan McPherson as time expired at Tennessee, and an overtime win at Kansas City when McPherson’s 31-yard field goal sailed through the uprights to give Cincinnati the AFC crown.

Overcoming an 18-point second-quarter deficit to defeat Kansas City might lead one to think that the Bengals are a team of destiny. To that extent, the ever-confident and poised Burrow will be going for a trifecta that seems like something suited for Hollywood, which, by the way, is only 12 miles to the north of SoFi Stadium where the quarterback will be attempting to add a Super Bowl title to go with the national championship and Heisman Trophy he won at LSU.

Not bad for a young man of 25 who spent two years as a backup at Ohio State before making his way to Baton Rouge where his career was launched.

Looking at the larger picture, with Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger having retired over the course of the past year and Aaron Rodgers contemplating whether to hang up his helmet, Burrow is one of the bright faces among a new wave of marquee quarterbacks that include Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen.

It is difficult to bet against Burrow and the Bengals who, by the way, employ former USF star tight end and Largo native Mitchell Wilcox. Not that anything has come easy for a team that has been involved in an astonishing nine – nine!! – three-point games this season, winning five of them, including their last two games.

The Rams, who follow the Bucs in becoming the second team in as many years to play a Super Bowl in their home stadium after no such occurrence in the previous 54 games, have some firepower of their own to go with an impressive Aaron Donald-led defense.

Both units were at their finest through nearly three quarters in an NFC divisional win in Tampa, before Sean McVay’s team did its best to cough up a 21-point lead thanks to coughing up the pigskin time and again.

Alas, quarterback Matthew Stafford and receiver Cooper Kupp set up Matt Gay for a game-winning field goal resulting in a sigh of relief that could be heard back in Inglewood.

Stafford showed his mettle when, going against the clock and the Buccaneers’ blitz, he unleashed a 44-yard to completion to an inexplicably open Kupp, a play that was followed by Gay’s deciding kick as time expired. If there ever was a test to be passed, that was it for Stafford.

The 34-year-old Stafford is easy to root for. The first-overall pick of the Lions in 2009, the former Georgia Bulldog spent 12 seasons in Detroit and did not win a single playoff game, going 0-for-3. Traded to the Rams for Jared Goff last winter, Stafford has his team a win away from the franchise’s second Super Bowl victory, which would be the first as the Los Angeles Rams. It is amazing what a change of scenery can do, no?

There will be plenty of scenery in Inglewood come Sunday, for sure, though it is safe to say that after the opening kick most eyeballs will be glued to the quarterbacks who have been so impressive in leading their teams to this stage.

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