For the past three years, I’ve written sports blog entries that all have been exclusive to the Super Bowl. And while I’ll blog about my Super Bowl 56 prediction in this entry, I have decided to do something different, which is blog about an NBA matchup that I have been anticipating since the entire 2021-22 NBA schedule came out. And as to what that matchup is, well it’s the rematch of the 2021 NBA Finals between the defending NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks and the Phoenix Suns, with this game occurring tonight at the Footprint Center, home of the team with the league’s best-record this season.
Of course, the last time that these two teams met in the aforementioned Footprint Center, the Suns squandered a 16-point lead in Game 5 of those Finals and nearly retook the lead late, only for Bucks point guard Jrue Holliday to rip the ball away from Suns all-world shooting guard Devin Booker. And of course, the Bucks would go on to close out that game, as well subsequently close out the series three nights later in Game 6. And as a Phoenix Suns fan, I have been wanting the Suns to face the Bucks so that they can prove that the Bucks aren’t some unbeatable opponent for them. Especially if they meet in this season’s NBA Finals, which judging from the Bucks currently being second in the Eastern Conference, is a possibility. Alright, now time to blog about the undercard of this two-sporting event blog entry with my prediction of the Bucks and Suns first meeting since that vomit-inducing NBA Finals.
For starters, the Bucks no longer have their strongest wing defender in PJ Tucker, as the rugged 11-year veteran took his toughness to South Beach to become a member of the Miami Heat, thus the Bucks no longer having that true one wing defender that can contain Booker. And of course, that’s not the only key absence on that team, as the Bucks’ second-most imposing frontcourt player (Giannis Antetokounmpo is their first) in Brook Lopez remains out with a back injury. And given the twin towers dynamic that he formed with Giannis last season, that’s a big blow to a Bucks team that has to contend with a Suns team that added two bigger bodies in JaVale McGee and Bismack Biyombo. Plus, they have a fourth big body in second-year forward/center Jalen Smith, whom can A) Provide that fourth big body that the Suns can throw at Giannis, B) Play with DeAndre Ayton in Suns line-ups that counter Bucks line-ups that have Giannis and Bobby Portis together and C) Be a switching defender onto on both Holliday and Khris Middleton, so that those two clowns have a game that’s nowhere as robust as the one that they played in that vomit-inducing Game 5.
Overall, the Suns finally have a frontcourt depth advantage against the Bucks. Plus, they have a slew of wing players to throw defensively at both Holliday and Middleton, headlined by Booker and Defensive Player Of The Year candidate Mikal Bridges. And speaking of Booker, the seventh-year superstar is on a tear offensively and I look for him to continue that in this game. And if Grayson Allen tries to play dirty against him, then Book is going to go Kobe Bryant on that annoying antagonist. Oh yeah, let’s not forget Chris Paul, whom is the best leader in the NBA, so you know he’ll stress the importance of winning this game. And win this game the Suns will, as they will ensure that the Bucks won’t finish undefeated on their four-game west coast road trip. I got the Suns winning this one, 115-90.
Alright, so now that the undercard has been predicted, it’s time to blog about the Super Bowl 56 matchup between the NFC champion Los Angeles Rams and the AFC champion Cincinnati Bengals.
Heading into this season, I knew that the Rams would be better with Matthew Stafford as their quarterback, as the 13-year signal caller plays way more fearless than his predecessor, Jared Goff. And as for the Bengals, I knew that they would play better than they did during the 2020 season, as quarterback Joe Burrow is the real deal. However, the Rams’ three-game losing streak during Weeks 8 through 12 of the regular season, along with their blown 17-point lead against the San Francisco 49ers during an eventual Week 18 loss, made me seriously doubt that they could get over the hump to make the big game. But after avenging a Week 4 loss against the Arizona Cardinals in the first-ever Monday Night Football playoff game (a 34-11 victory) in NFL history, along with dethroning the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and proving that the third time is a charm via their NFC Championship Game victory against the 49ers, Sean McVay’s bunch is in the big game for the second time in four seasons, which is a stark contrast to the team that’s in southwestern Ohio.
You see, the Bengals haven’t played in a Super Bowl since the 1988-89 season nor, up until this season, had won a playoff game since the 1990-91 season. Plus, they had a streak of eight consecutive playoff losses, seven of which occurred during the Marvin Lewis era. Yeah, an 0-7 playoff record for the architect of the vaunted 2000 Baltimore Ravens defense, with that last loss coming in that infamous 2015-16 game where now former Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict went helmet-to-helmet on then-Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown. Now back to the recent history of the Bengals.
So after that heartbreaking 18-16 loss against the Steelers, the Bengals would endure five consecutive losing seasons, the first three (2016 through 2018) of which were Lewis’ last as Bengals head coach before Zac Taylor was hired away from the Rams to replace him. However, a new coach didn’t bring forth instant improvement, as the Bengals finished 2-14 in Taylor’s first year (2019) as their head coach.
But sure enough, their fortunes did change, as their awful 2019 record enabled them to have the first overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, with that pick ultimately becoming Burrow. And while the Bengals went 4-11-1 in Burrow’s rookie season, the 2019 Heisman Trophy winner gave them the spark that they long needed at the quarterback position via posting 13 touchdown passes, 2,688 yards and a 65.3 completion percentage in just 10 games before suffering a season-ending knee injury during a Week 11 loss against the now Washington Commanders. The injury then gave the perception that the number one overall pick of the 2020 NFL Draft would look rusty during his second season in the league. Or so it seemed, as he showed no ill effects of that injury via throwing 34 touchdown passes, 4,611 yards and a league-leading 70.4 completion percentage. Oh yeah, and he led the Bengals to a 10-7 record to capture the AFC North division title for the first time since 2015, followed by the three playoff victories that propelled his team to this point. And to what occurred in those three playoff victories, well the Bengals eliminated the Las Vegas Raiders via a 26-19 victory, thanks to Bengals linebacker Germaine Pratt’s game-ending interception of Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, followed by Burrow overcoming nine Tennessee Titan sacks to lead the Bengals on a buzzer-beating 19-16 victory against the AFC’s number-one seed. And of course, the Bengals emerging star wasn’t done yet, as eight days after that Divisional Round victory against the Titans, he played a big part in rallying the Bengals from a 21-3 deficit, so that they could win 27-24 in overtime against the reigning two-time AFC champion Kansas City Chiefs. Okay, now onto my prediction for the main event of this blog entry.
So much has been made about the Bengals’ offensive line and how they both allowed Burrow to get sacked 51 times in 16 regular season games, before those nine sacks that they surrendered against the Titans. And so much has been made about Rams superstar Aaron Donald & the rest of the Rams pass rush possibly putting forth an effort that will either match or exceed that valiant effort by the Titans. However, the Rams up-and-down play (mostly on offense) this postseason once again has me concerned about McVay’s bunch. Plus, the Rams pass rush isn’t as ferocious as the Titans’ pass rush, along with the fact that Burrow is an infinitely better quarterback than Jimmy Garoppolo. Expect a steady diet of Bengals running back Joe Mixon to both keep the Rams defense honest and the Rams offense off the field as much as possible, with the Oklahoma product doing so primarily as a runner to the tune of 140 yards rushing. Yeah, that’s right, another Joe (Mixon) is going to be the Super Bowl MVP and the Bengals will win, 27-17.
Well everyone, there you have it for this dual undercard-main event sports blog entry. Tune in tomorrow to see how my Bucks-Suns prediction went and tune in on Monday to see how my Super Bowl 56 prediction went.