Cincinnati Bengals tight end C.J. Uzomah will play in Super Bowl LVI despite suffering a knee injury in the AFC Championship Game.

Uzomah sustained a sprained medial collateral ligament during the Bengals' comeback win over the Kansas City Chiefs two weeks ago.

However, the tight end has been able to make a speedy recovery and was not on the Bengals' inactive list for the season-ending showpiece against the Los Angeles Rams.

During Monday's virtual media day, Uzomah said: "I'm not missing the biggest game of my life.

"I'm not missing it. That's my approach going every day into rehab."

He has made good on that promise and will provide Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow with an extra weapon to add to an already impressive list.

Uzomah caught a career-high five touchdown passes during the regular season and averaged over 10 yards per reception for the third time in four seasons.

There was talk Sean McVay could ride off into the sunset after Super Bowl LVI, but both he and counterpart Zac Taylor are set to stick around as head coaches for the long term.

ESPN's Adam Schefter reported on Sunday that Rams coach McVay and Bengals coach Taylor are in line to receive contract extensions from their respective teams once the dust settles on Sunday's clash at SoFi Stadium.

McVay has two seasons remaining on his deal, while the 2022 campaign is the last year of Taylor's current contract.

There had been reports that 36-year-old McVay, who has previously expressed a desire not to coach into his 60s, could step away from coaching at the end of the season, with talk of a potential move into broadcasting.

Such suggestions appear to have been erroneous, as the indication is now that he will continue a head coaching career in which he has reached the playoffs in all but one of his five seasons in charge of the Rams.

McVay also looks set to be tied to the quarterback that has led his team back to the Super Bowl for the long term.

Indeed, NFL Media's Ian Rapoport reported the Rams are set to hammer out a contract extension with Matthew Stafford, whom the Rams traded a pair of first-round picks to acquire in the offseason.

Stafford's contract expires at the end of next season but, regardless of whether he gets the job done on home turf, the Rams are poised to reward him for a campaign in which he set franchise records for completions (404), passing yards (4,886) and touchdowns (41).

Joe Burrow is used to overcoming adversity. His career has been defined by doing just that. 

Recruited to Ohio State after a stellar high school career, Burrow never achieved his ambition of being the starting quarterback for the Buckeyes, who preferred to give first J.T. Barrett and then Dwayne Haskins the reins to their offense. His response: transfer to LSU and win the National Championship in the 2019 campaign, using his final year in college to put together one of the finest quarterback seasons ever produced at that level.

Five thousand six hundred and seventy-one passing yards, 60 touchdowns and just six interceptions proved more than enough to convince the Cincinnati Bengals he was deserving of the number one overall pick in the 2020 draft.

There was concern that decision would not be vindicated when, in Week 11 of the 2020 season against the then-Washington Football Team, Burrow tore multiple knee ligaments, ending his rookie season prematurely.

It was no secret that Burrow endured his struggles in training camp as he attempted to put the mental and physical pain of that devastating injury behind him, but any doubts that existed in the summer have long since been extinguished by a season in which he has continually thrived in adversity and excelled in the most significant moments.

No NFL quarterback was more accurate in the regular season, Burrow's well-thrown percentage of 85.7 the best in the league among quarterbacks with at least 200 attempts, and no quarterback fared better under pressure. He delivered an accurate, well-thrown ball on 80.1 per cent of his 156 pass attempts under pressure, putting him tops for quarterbacks with a minimum of 50 such attempts. His nearest challenger was Ryan Tannehill (76.5) while the average was 70 per cent.

Burrow does not just excel at being accurate under pressure, he also does a remarkable job of escaping it, his leap out of the clutches of Chris Jones in the fourth quarter one of the defining images of the Bengals' stunning comeback against the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game.

When the odds appear stacked against him, Burrow changes the calculus, and he is the reason why you'll find many in Los Angeles expecting him to spoil the Rams' party and lead Cincinnati to victory in Super Bowl LVI on Sunday.

Kevin Clark, senior NFL writer at The Ringer, is among those selecting Cincinnati to pull off the upset because of Burrow.

"I think it's going to be close, and when that happens it becomes situational football, it becomes third and eight, what's your best play? Who's best equipped for that? For me, that's Joe Burrow," Clark told Stats Perform this week.

"I was leaning Rams because I just believe in talent, a lot of times I say 'there's more blue-chip guys on this roster, I'm picking them' but when I started to look at it, I realised the difference wasn't that great. The Bengals just beat the Chiefs, and they did a nice job against the Chiefs. The idea that the Bengals are some Cinderella story plus Joe Burrow, I don't agree with that."

No quarterback in the NFL with at least 100 attempts on third down in the regular season had a better completion percentage in those situations than Burrow (72.5) while he also led the league in passing plays of 50 yards or more (12) despite his arm strength being a tick below the level of some of his superstar contemporaries.

"I was just reading a book that his college coach wrote, and they were saying in his junior year in training camp he didn't separate himself because his arm just wasn't that strong. You go from that to leading the NFL in 50 plus yards receptions, it's remarkable, it's unbelievable," added Clark.

"I think that's a testament to getting the ball out quickly, knowing exactly where the ball is gonna go, any quarterback can go throw 50 yards, it's whether you can throw 70 yards. If you're in the NFL you can get there and so Burrow, using all of his arm strength, but then you look at what he's able to do with just vision, the placement, it's all there and it's rendering the lack of arm strength quite frankly meaningless.

Burrow's success in overcoming his own supposed physical limitations is also giving his coach, Zac Taylor, freedom to be more aggressive. The Bengals were third in the NFL this season in fourth-down conversion success rate (65 per cent) and the confidence Taylor can afford to have in his quarterback could tilt the coaching matchup with Sean McVay in his favour.

Clark explained: "I think that McVay is obviously a much better coach than Zac Taylor, I think Burrow has liberated Zac Taylor in a way that gives him cover, almost like if you remember with the Ravens and Lamar Jackson a few years ago where the Ravens were getting very aggressive because they had Lamar Jackson, and if there was any question in the media about why this person went for it, the answer was just always Lamar Jackson.

"Joe Burrow is that kind of player where it's fourth and four, they're gonna go for it. I think in the coaching matchup Burrow makes a difference because he's the kind of guy who's going to go over there and say 'coach we're going for it on fourth down' and Zac Taylor is smart enough to say 'this guy's driving the bus I'm gonna let him do it'".

Taylor confirmed as such during the Bengals' media availability on Friday, the Bengals' desire to involve Burrow in the process on gameday and in the offseason allowing both coach and quarterback to feel more comfortable.

"We took with the number one pick so there's obviously some special traits, we know he's a winner, he's a champion," said Taylor. 

"We wanted to make sure that we built this thing around him and how he could feel most comfortable. I think that when a player like that, who prepares like he does and sees the game, really from a coach's perspective, he should be involved in everything we do, and that's opinions on other players that we're adding to the team, that's scheme and game plan, that's adjustments that we make over the course of the game, he's earned that.

"Any time he's involved, he tends to make it work really well. And so I don't think that there's any egos on our staff that say no, we've got to do it the way that the coaches want it done. I want him to feel comfortable on game day, because when he feels comfortable, he plays at a really special level."

Comfortable with how the team operates, at ease in the spotlight and always calm under pressure, Burrow has even earned the blessing of the original 'Joe Cool', Joe Montana, to take that nickname. In what could be the warmest Super Bowl ever, Burrow's composure may turn the heat on the home favourite Rams.

Super Bowl LVI will be a tale of the student versus the master with Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor going against the man he used to work for on the Los Angeles Rams' staff in Sean McVay. They have not worked together since the 2018 season and their two offenses have taken somewhat divergent paths since that point, but the meeting between a coach schooled in the McVay offense and the man whom he learned it from is a fascinating subplot of the NFL's grand season finale.

When two coaches have a strong knowledge of each other and are born of the same scheme, how do they go about manufacturing an edge?

"It becomes a little bit of a game of chess," former NFL wide receiver Andrew Hawkins told Stats Perform.

"Typically I give the upper hand to the Mr Miyagi of the two because you can teach a system, you can put somebody in the system, the longer you're in that system, the more you know, 'I've taught you this so I know how you're gonna approach something because I taught you to do it, I know how to break your own rules', and there will be some gamesmanship and some of the Kyle Shanahan-McVay elements here with McVay and Taylor.

"Ultimately it'll come down to players making plays."

Two of the biggest playmakers in Super Bowl LVI will spend a lot of time face to face, with Offensive Rookie of the Year Ja'Marr Chase set to line up against arguably the NFL's elite cornerback in Rams superstar Jalen Ramsey.

Chase, just as he was in college, has been the go-to receiver for Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow, and it could be the level of success Ramsey enjoys in severing their connection that decides who lifts the Lombardi Trophy.

Cincinnati's vindication

The Bengals may continue to have offensive line problems, but at this point few are still questioning their decision to eschew addressing them and select Chase instead.

In terms of individual awards, the most emphatic vindication has already been secured, with Chase taking home the hardware at Thursday's NFL Honours ceremony.

A decisive performance from Chase would end any debate, and the numbers illustrate the task on Ramsey's hands in attempting to stop him.

Chase's 2021 burn rate, which measures how often a receiver wins his matchup with a defender when he is targeted, of 64.3 per cent was just above the NFL average of 62 for wideouts with at least 100 targets.

However, when he has won his matchup, Chase has done so decisively. His burn yards per target average of 13.85 stands below only that of Tyler Lockett (14.72), with his tally of 3.2 burn yards per route good for tied seventh among wideouts.

And when it comes to making big plays, only three receivers have fared better in the 2021 campaign, Chase producing a big play – a 20-yard burn or a burn for a touchdown – on 36.6 per cent of his targets.

No quarterback had as many passing plays of 50 yards in the regular season as Burrow (12) and no wideout had as many receiving plays of that distance as Chase's six.

Chase is not one of the league's elite separators but, when he does get even the slightest step on a defender, the results can be devastating.

In Ramsey, however, he is facing a defender with the ability to lock down receivers for an entire game.

A strength on strength matchup

Team-mate Aaron Donald might feel aggrieved at not winning Defensive Player of the Year on Thursday, but Ramsey also had quite a compelling statistical case and could be considered a snub.

Among cornerbacks with at least 100 matchups with a receiver, only two defenders had a better combined open percentage allowed across both man and zone coverage than Ramsey in the regular season.

His combined open percentage of 17.07 trailed just Bryce Hall (14.61) and Casey Hayward (14.83), with burns for significant yardage rarely something Ramsey gives up.

For cornerbacks with a minimum of 50 targets, Ramsey is top 10 in 2021 in burn yards per target (8.12, sixth) and burn yards per snap (1.39, 10th).

But where does Ramsey excel the most? Preventing the big play.

Indeed, his 2021 big-play rate of 14.2 per cent can only claim to have been topped by Avonte Maddox and Tre'Davious White (both 13.9). Maddox started only five games while White's season was cut short in his 11th by a knee injury.

When Chase lines up against Ramsey, it will be a case of strength on strength, but neither appears to be spending too much time worrying about how to combat the other.

"He's got to check me"

Asked about Chase, Ramsey replied: "I respect his game, I respect how he's played this year, he's come in as a rookie and tore the league up, he has great chemistry with his quarterback and you can tell.

"I'll let the world keep talking about it [the matchup]. We're going to get out there on Sunday; I'll be ready to play, I'm sure he will be too."

Chase undoubtedly appeared ready for the challenge when speaking to the media on Friday, hinting that Ramsey will have the tougher task playing the reactionary role on defense.

"I'm just gonna play my game, he the one gotta check me," said Chase. 

"I'm not playing defense, I'm playing offense, so he got to check me. We're going to go with our matchups and go as we go."

From the evidence of their respective stunning seasons, those matchups may well command the greatest attention when two of the stars of 2021 face off under one of sport's brightest spotlights.

Aaron Rodgers' position as the NFL's premier quarterback was reaffirmed on Thursday when he was named MVP, but could Sunday be the start of Joe Burrow's journey to surpassing him?

The Los Angeles Rams may be in Burrow's immediate sights as he and the Cincinnati Bengals look to pull off the upset in Super Bowl LVI, but long term he is pursuing Rodgers in terms of individual greatness, with this season's MVP award the fourth in the Green Bay Packers star's remarkable career.

"He deserved it, he played great all year," Burrow said when asked about Rodgers on Friday.

"He's been the best player in the league, I don't know if I would say that, [he], Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady have kind of been battling for that the last five years. I'm chasing Aaron Rodgers to try to be the best, he's been doing it for a long time."

Burrow will equal Rodgers' number of Super Bowl wins should he lead the Bengals to victory over the Rams, Rodgers' career partially defined by frustration in the playoffs since the Packers' triumph in Super Bowl XLV in the 2010 season.

Trying to stop Burrow on Sunday will be a player who may well feel snubbed after missing out on a fourth Defensive Player of the Year award. Aaron Donald did not receive that honour, which instead went to Pittsburgh Steelers star T.J. Watt, despite a season in which he registered a stunt-adjusted pass rush win rate of 63.83 per cent.

That was not only the highest for all defenders with at least 100 one-on-one matchups, it was over 10 percentage points higher than his nearest challenger, Myles Garrett (53.56). 

Donald and his team-mates on the defensive line, including Von Miller and Leonard Floyd, took over the NFC Championship Game against the San Francisco 49ers in the fourth quarter to help the Rams turn a 17-7 deficit into a victory.

So how will Burrow handle the challenge of facing a defensive front led by one of the all-time greats, who could not possibly need more motivation?

Burrow – whose average time to throw from the snap of the ball was 2.58 seconds, faster than the league average of 2.67 seconds (min. 200 attempts) – knows processing quickly will be crucial.

"In my opinion, they're [the Rams' pass rush] the best in the league at what they do, they get a lot of pressure on the quarterback, they get schemed to get a lot of one-on-one matchups," he added.

"So it's going to be partly on me to handle that pressure, get the ball out of my hands quickly and make plays when the opportunities are there."

Consistent domination is difficult to achieve in the NFL. Not since the 1993 season have the same teams played in the Super Bowl in successive years and no team has won back-to-back Super Bowls since the 2004 New England Patriots. Parity is one of the league's primary selling points but, while it largely retains a balance among clubs in terms of results on the field, there can be no doubt there is a scheme establishing dominion over the NFL.

Sunday's clash between the Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Rams will mark the third time in the last four seasons that an NFL campaign has come to end with a game featuring at least one team employing a version of the offense run by Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay.

With McVay going up against his former assistant in Bengals head coach Zac Taylor, Super Bowl LVI will serve as a compelling illustration of the pre-eminence that offensive scheme enjoys, and this recent round of coaching hires also painted the same picture.

The Miami Dolphins hired Shanahan's offensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers, Mike McDaniel, to be their new head coach. Nathaniel Hackett, having worked as offensive coordinator in that offense under Matt LaFleur with the Green Bay Packers, was appointed as the Denver Broncos head coach. Kevin O'Connell, the Rams offensive coordinator, cannot officially be hired by the Minnesota Vikings until the Super Bowl is over, but that agreement has already been reached.

Those hires have taken the tally of offensive head coaches from the Shanahan-McVay tree to five. Robert Saleh was Shanahan's defensive coordinator in San Francisco until 2021, and he took Niners passing game coordinator Mike LaFleur with him when he was hired by the New York Jets. Brandon Staley got the Los Angeles Chargers job last year after one season revolutionising the Rams on defense for McVay.

The fingerprints of Shanahan and McVay are all over the NFL, and they will be overtly smudged over the Super Bowl. One offensive system having this level of influence over the league feels unprecedented, but is it? 

"If you look back at it, I assume if you did the actual lineage of it, the way that the league looked in the mid-90s, early 2000s, most of it probably comes enough from the Bill Walsh tree to say it's similar," Robert Mays, NFL writer for The Athletic, tells Stats Perform. 

"It starts fragmenting because even if you look at the genealogy of the Shanahan tree, it comes from the Bill Walsh tree, because you have Mike Shanahan coming from San Francisco, they combine it with the wide zone running scheme, so now even that DNA is still sort of similar, if you go back far enough it all comes from the same place, but no I can't remember anything like it in this modern era, the last 10 years or so, because there just hasn't been anything similar. There were a lot of the Seattle defensive guys on that side of the ball but it still wasn't as popular as it is right now."

So why is it so popular? The obvious answer is its success.

The 49ers (first), Rams (fourth), Bengals (seventh) and Packers (eighth) all finished the regular season in the top 10 in yards per play. All four were playing on Divisional Round weekend.

But it is more than just the offensive efficiency and the results that have made Shanahan, McVay and now LaFleur assistants attractive to teams looking to turn their fortunes around, it is also a combination of the scheme, the adaptability of the scheme and the willingness of the coaches to take a flexible approach.

"What you have to understand about why the Niners are successful, why Sean is successful, it's not because they run this offense, it's their understanding of defensive rules and how to manipulate them is what makes them really successful, they all just happen to come from the same place," Mays explains.

"I think the quarterback-friendly aspect of it is really important. How they attack the middle of the field, the play-action, I do think it's the easiest way to get the most out of a quarterback in a quarterback-centric league.

Speaking to the quarterback-friendly nature of the offense, Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford threw to an open receiver on 82.5 per cent of his attempts, second behind Patrick Mahomes (85.5) among signal-callers with at least 200 pass attempts. Zach Wilson (79.5), playing in Mike LaFleur's offense, was 10th, and the likely departing 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was still above average on 79.1 per cent.  

It goes beyond the quarterback, though, with wide receiver Andrew Hawkins, who played under Shanahan and Mike McDaniel during his time with the Cleveland Browns, enjoying personal experience of how they get the most out of the surrounding talent.

"The thing that anybody who played for Kyle, the Mikes and the LaFleur's and the McVay's, they figure out their offense around the players," Hawkins told Stats Perform. 

"It's traditional for coaches to say 'here's my system' and they're gonna get jobs off their system and they say 'this is my system, this is the way we run it, this is the kind of tight end we need, we need this quarterback to do these things, we need this guy to do this and if they're not these kind of guys I'm gonna go find people who will do what I say, my system bang, bang, bang'.

"Shanahan and those guys, they don't do it that way. They are, I don't want to say true coaches, but to me, they're the best version of it because they'll come into a place and say hey Hawk, you're limited here, but you do these things really, really, really well and although my last receiver might have been 6'4", 215 pounds, your skill set is this so we're going to change things around that fit your skill set and get the best out of you for the best version of our offense it can be.

"That's what you want as a player, you want your coaches to understand your skill set and maybe not ask the 5'7" guy to go make jump-ball catches in the red zone, it's not exactly what I do, it's not my thing, I like to be in space, let's find ways to get me in space and that's what they'll do.

"They'll cater it to their players, to their O-Line, to their running backs, to their outside guy, their inside guy, their tight end, as players you want coaches who are gonna tell you the truth and put you in the best position to win for your skill set. Don't try to fit a square peg into a round hole and those coaches, just by philosophy, do it better most guys in the league."

Agreeing with Hawkins' assessment, Mays adds: "It's interesting because it takes on different flavours, that's the most important thing, you have to understand how it is tailored to your personnel."

And, though Taylor, cut his teeth under McVay, the way he has tailored his Bengals offense to his personnel has made their attack markedly different from that of the Rams.

Burrow did not throw to an open receiver as often, doing so just 76.9 per cent of the time, but that is reflective of a more aggressive downfield passing game that has regularly relied on the ball-winning skills of Ja'Marr Chase and his quarterback's unerring accuracy.

This season, Burrow led the NFL by delivering an accurate, well-thrown ball on 86.1 per cent of his pass attempts as his skill set meshed perfectly with a more ambitious passing game. No player produced more passing plays of more than 50 yards than Burrow with 12. Next on the list, Stafford, with 10.

"It's very different, it's much more spread out than you would see with Sean's offense, the Bengals are a spread team, they play in the shotgun, they have one of the widest formations on average in the entire NFL, they are not doing a lot of things that the Rams are doing," Mays says of the Bengals' attack.

"I think it's really tailored to, this is what we are, we have a true X receiver on the outside, we honestly have two because of what Tee Higgins is, we don't need to worry about all those bunches and stacks and things like that, and they run very little play-action, you think about the fact that Zac was under Sean in 2018 when the Rams were running play-action 38 per cent of the time or whatever it was, and the Bengals are like under 20 with one of the lowest rates in the entire NFL."

Matt LaFleur weaponised the scheme in Green Bay via the brilliance of Aaron Rodgers, McVay has molded it around Stafford following the trade that sent Jared Goff to Detroit and moved away from play-action somewhat while Shanahan has leaned heavily on the run with the 49ers. McDaniel, O'Connell and Hackett will surely recreate the system to mesh with their respective talent pools and, ultimately, what owners and general managers are buying when they invest in an assistant from the McVay and Shanahan offense is not the scheme, but the ingenuity these coaches gain from their association with two of the most talented football minds of this generation.

"I think what people are searching for when they hire all these Sean assistants, aren't necessarily we want this offensive system, it's we want whatever environment comes with these guys from this place," Mays observes. "Brandon Staley's not an offensive coach and they still hired him to be the head coach.

"I think they're trying to capture whatever this kind of incubator of football ideas is, that I feel like is what they're trying to tap into as much as the actual Xs and Os of the offensive scheme."

Los Angeles Rams tight end Tyler Higbee has been officially ruled out of Super Bowl LVI.

Higbee will not face the Cincinnati Bengals after he and offensive tackle Joseph Noteboom were placed on injured reserve on Friday.

Running back Darrell Henderson Jr. and nose tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day were both activated ahead of Sunday's game, but Higbee's absence comes as a blow – albeit one that was expected.

The former fourth-round pick suffered an MCL strain in the NFC Championship Game win over the San Francisco 49ers.

Higbee had 61 catches for 560 yards and five touchdowns in the 2021 regular season, adding nine receptions for 115 yards in the playoffs.

He has been targeted 14 times in the postseason, third-most on the Rams behind superstar wide receivers Cooper Kupp (32) and Odell Beckham Jr. (23).

Bayern Munich head coach Julian Nagelsmann has no favourite for Super Bowl LVI and may well not be awake to take it in regardless.

The Los Angeles Rams take on the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday in California, though it will be beyond midnight in Germany by the time the game starts.

This week, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced Germany would stage four NFL games over the next four seasons, starting from the 2022 campaign.

Indeed, it will be Bayern's Allianz Arena that hosts the first NFL regular-season game to be played in mainland Europe, with Frankfurt the other venue.

With the Super Bowl dominating headlines in the lead-up to this weekend, Nagelsmann was quizzed on his preference ahead of the Rams-Bengals clash.

"I don't have a favourite. My favourites have all been eliminated," Nagelsmann explained in a news conference on Friday.

"I don't have one favourite team. I have a connection to the Kansas City Chiefs, but I also find the Green Bay Packers interesting."

He then quipped: "Most of the time, when I watch the Super Bowl I fall asleep at halftime because I have a [lot of] work to do."

Asked if he is excited by the prospect of the NFL coming to Germany, following its success of staging games in London over recent years, Nagelsmann joked: "The anticipation in Germany is very great... when I get tickets!"

In total, five NFL regular-season games will be played outside the United States next season.

Three will take place in London, one in Munich and one in Mexico.

If the NFL was ever going to give a non-quarterback the MVP this season, it probably would have been Cooper Kupp.

As such, Kupp will have to settle for the Offensive Player of the Year award, which he won on Thursday.

Kupp will hope to add the Super Bowl trophy on Sunday, with the individual and team success he and the Rams have enjoyed just reward for one of the most dominant receiving seasons in NFL history.

Racking up 1,947 receiving yards, Kupp finished just 19 yards shy of breaking Calvin Johnson's all-time record for single-season yardage. Johnson finished with 1,965 receiving yards for the Detroit Lions in the 2012 campaign.

Kupp's 16 receiving touchdowns were also a season high, his ability to excel lined up out wide and in the slot making him a mismatch nightmare for opposing defenses.

According to Stats Perform data, he produced a burn, which is when a receiver wins his matchup with his defender on a play where he is targeted, on 65.5 per cent of targets, just above the average of 62.

However, no receiver averaged more burn yards per route (4.1) than Kupp, doing so while running more routes (670) than anyone else.

In other words, Kupp did a better job at creating clear separation from his defenders than all of his contemporaries while also taking on the heaviest workload in the NFL.

There are many subplots to Super Bowl LVI, but the receiver battle between Kupp and the man named Offensive Rookie of the Year, Cincinnati Bengals star Ja'Marr Chase, may be the most compelling.

The Los Angeles Rams are in the Super Bowl thanks to stunning seasons from the likes of Cooper Kupp and Aaron Donald, but it turns out Dr Dre might have had something to do with it too. 

Sunday's Halftime Show will be a parade of hip hop royalty, with Dre set to be joined on stage by Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Kendrick Lamar and Mary J. Blige. 

A cultural icon in Los Angeles, Dre is delighted to be sharing the spotlight with the hometown team, claiming to have spoken their success into existence. 

"Who else could do this show here in LA, who else could perform the Halftime Show other than these amazing artists that we put together for this thing?" Dre said during the Halftime Show media conference on Thursday. 

"Not only that, I've been manifesting the Rams, since the beginning of the season, I'm just thinking about it every day, I'm meditating on it and I'm like: 'Okay, it would be perfect if we are in the Super Bowl performing and the Rams are in the game as well.'" 

Dre promised surprises in the show, though he would not go into any further detail. 

He and Snoop vowed there would be no wardrobe malfunctions. Dre joked he had dissuaded him and Eminem from any provocative displays during the performance. 

Snoop, though, expects to have the greatest impact during the show. 

Asked what he wants the audience to take from the concert, Snoop replied: "[That] I'm the greatest to ever do it. 

"Somebody gotta say it, Tom Brady wouldn't say it, I'm the GOAT." 

And although Snoop is a fully fledged Pittsburgh Steelers fan, he is backing the Rams to keep the Lombardi Trophy at SoFi Stadium. "I gotta go with LA," he said. 

In a moderated conversation, Dre, Snoop and Mary J all emphasised how much work has gone into the show. 

Asked what will be on her mind once the performance is done, Mary J said: "A drink. A really nice tall drink because I've just been so focused on me and the Super Bowl." 

With Dre describing their act as "f*****g incredible" and Snoop labelling it "magnifico", one of the most anticipated Halftime Shows in Super Bowl history appears set to be one not to forget. 

The Los Angeles Rams' preparations for the Super Bowl have been efficient, but they haven't been without issues, albeit relatively minor ones.

Southern California is in the grip of unusual heat for February and the Rams' matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals at SoFi Stadium could be the hottest Super Bowl ever.

Yet the Rams did not feel the full effect of the heatwave at their base in Thousand Oaks, which was hit by winds of around 22 miles per hour during Wednesday's practice.

With those winds expected to increase in strength, the Rams are moving practice for Thursday, by which time head coach Sean McVay will hope to have his voice back.

"I feel great, I just sound like s***," McVay said in Wednesday's media conference after it became evident he had lost his voice.

"Hopefully, we'll get this voice to come back, but it was like yesterday I was in my office for a minute then I went to talk to some of the coaches and then my voice sounded like this, I'm like 'what the hell happened?' I've got the honey, I've got all the remedies. We'll get this voice back."

Undeterred by his vocal cords failing him, McVay also has little qualms about switching practice to Pasadena to escape the difficult conditions.

"We're going to go practice at the Rose Bowl tomorrow, kind of anticipating the winds," he added. 

"If that's the biggest inconvenience of playing the Super Bowl playing at home that we have to get on a bus, we do that pretty regularly anyways going down to SoFi."

An outwardly optimistic person, McVay's swiftness in brushing off such inconveniences is no surprise, and the speed with which the Rams have installed their Super Bowl gameplan can only have helped his mood.

McVay, according to the pool report, said after practice: "Today kind of represented the finality of it. We can tweak and adjust as we go, but they [the players] did a good job of getting ahead of stuff.

"Guys felt really good. We ran through all the different situations that can come up…and then the next couple of days we'll just be tightening up."

McVay will be able to make any tweaks knowing that he will likely have all three of his top running backs available, with Darrell Henderson Jr. appearing poised to return from a knee ligament injury.

"I think Darrell’s going to go," said McVay. "So, you'll have Cam [Akers], Darrell and Sony [Michel]. You'll be able to see a good, three-back rotation, based on how the game unfolds.

"The situations that arise will dictate which one you're seeing. Like anything else, if we're able to get into a rhythm running it, we're going to go with the hot hand."

McVay might be straining to communicate but, with his running back room returning to full health and the gameplan ready, there's every reason for him to be confident of a career-defining victory that would taste as sweet as his honey remedy.

It can at best be considered a bold move to go into a Super Bowl matchup against Aaron Donald and the Los Angeles Rams without a settled group of starters on your offensive line.

But that is the reality the Cincinnati Bengals face, with head coach Zac Taylor still unsure of who his starter at right guard will be when they attempt to claim a first Lombardi Trophy in franchise history.

The right guard spot has been an issue throughout a season in which the Bengals and quarterback Joe Burrow have improbably overcome significant pass protection woes to reach the cusp of an historic triumph.

Rookie Jackson Carman and Hakeem Adeniji rotated at right guard in the Bengals' AFC Championship Game comeback win over the Kansas City Chiefs.

Second-round pick Carman has been dealing with a back injury but remains in the mix to line up against the Rams' star defensive lineman Donald in a potentially decisive mismatch in Super Bowl LVI.

"Jackson's progressing well, he's better than he was last week," Taylor said in Wednesday's media conference of Carman's injury. 

"He and Hakeem have really gone back and forth at that guard spot, they've both given us some really good things, they're young players, their best days are ahead of them, we think both those guys have been progressing as we had hoped, so we'll continue to let them play out, see how it shapes out on Sunday."

The Bengals landing on the right player to attempt to slow down Donald, as well as Von Miller and Leonard Floyd, is essential.

Donald's stunt-adjusted pass rush win rate of 63.83 per cent was not only the highest for all defenders with at least 100 one on one matchups, according to Stats Perform data, it was over 10 percentage points higher than that of his nearest challenger, Myles Garrett (53.56).

With the Bengals allowing 51 pressures across their three playoff games, all signs point to a game-wrecking display for Donald.

However, the Bengals may have the ideal quarterback to deal with having Donald in his face. Of quarterbacks with 100 pass attempts under pressure, Burrow's percentage of well-thrown balls delivered of 80.1 was the best in the NFL and over 10 percentage points above the average (70.1).

And Burrow certainly will not get discouraged by any success Donald enjoys against the Bengals, Taylor pointing to his mental toughness as one of his greatest qualities.

"You're going to face a lot of adversity, a lot of difficult moments, it's easy when you're at practice, throwing seven on seven, preseason games, stuff like that," said Taylor.

"But when the season really matters, your mental toughness is going to be challenged, you've got to be thorough with your process, consistent with your process and those are areas where Joe really excels."

Burrow could yet have one of his more underappreciated offensive weapons available on Sunday, with tight end C.J. Uzomah expected to practice on Thursday as he recovers from a knee injury suffered in the AFC Championship Game win over the Kansas City Chiefs.

"Considering where he was when he fell on the turf last Sunday to where he is now, [I'm] really optimistic about how it's going," Taylor added. "We'll continue to see him in action these next two days, but optimistic."

There was no shortage of stars on show on Tuesday as the defending NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks overcame the Lakers on the road. A clash of such magnitude, pitting Giannis Antetokounmpo against LeBron James and Anthony Davis would normally be the highlight of a Los Angeles sports week, but this is no ordinary Los Angeles sports week.

Indeed, Giannis, LeBron and Co. were in the position of warm-up act as Los Angeles plays host to Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium on Sunday. In a city they and the Los Angeles Dodgers have long since dominated, the Lakers must reconcile themselves with playing second fiddle as the Rams attempt to win their first Super Bowl for the city of Los Angeles.

That the Rams are part of the headline act is not especially surprising given their level of elite talent and the blockbuster trade for quarterback Matthew Stafford made with this end goal in mind. What is more eyebrow-raising is that any fallout from the latest Lakers defeat will quickly be buried for hype surrounding a title game involving the team that arrived at LAX prior to tip-off at Arena.

Cincinnati's is a true tale of the underdog. From 4-11 last year with their number one overall pick Joe Burrow tearing his knee ligaments in 2020, to a 10-7 campaign and consistent Houdini acts under pressure from Burrow in postseason wins over the Las Vegas Raiders, top-seeded Tennessee Titans and three-time defending AFC champion Kansas City Chiefs. The Bengals are the team nobody saw coming.

And, going into Sunday's meeting with the Rams, they are the team few expect to pull off a shock again despite their evident proclivity for upsetting the odds.

Antetokounmpo's sublime 44-point effort, in which he silenced a Lakers crowd trying to will a largely uninspiring team to a comeback that only briefly seemed possible, was almost routine. If Burrow and this team from the Midwest thwart a stacked Rams squad built to deliver immediate Super Bowl glory, the response will be anything but.

There is no expectation on the shoulders of the Bengals, whose young quarterback appears completely undaunted by the prospect of playing on the grandest stage in American sport for a team that prior to this season had not won a playoff game this century.

"At the end of the day, your mindset stays the same. When I played in the state championship in high school, it feels the same as playing in the Super Bowl does now," Burrow said in Tuesday's media conference. "At that moment in my life that was the biggest game I had ever played in, so everything kind of feels the same, I've just had more reps in those situations so I'm probably even a little calmer.

"Honestly we've never even spoken about the playoff drought once this whole season. We have a really young team that doesn't really understand the historical significance of what we're doing. We're just out there playing football and getting better while we're doing it."

Burrow is not feeling the weight of history, but he is appreciative of the significance of getting a Bengals franchise that has too often been a laughingstock to the cusp of a first Lombardi Trophy.

He added: "Being from Ohio and being the quarterback of the Bengals is something that I'm really proud of. Growing up there really weren't a lot of Bengals fans in high school and in the middle school, it was all Steelers and Browns and there were a few Bengals fans here and there that kind of got made fun of a little bit, so I think as a team we're excited to put a product on the field that the fans are proud of and kind of gives them bragging rights they haven't had that in a little while, so I'm excited to give that to them."

Free of expectation and free of pressure, the Bengals' position as underdogs could well be to their advantage. Regardless of whether they complete a remarkable run with the ultimate triumph on Sunday, with Burrow under center the Bengals look destined to compete for headline billing for years to come.

Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr has lavished praise on teammate Cooper Kupp ahead of Sunday's Super Bowl clash with the Cincinnati Bengals, and believes his fellow receiver "deserves" to win at SoFi Stadium.

Beckham Jr joined the Rams in November on a one-year contract after being released by the Cleveland Browns, and is now just one game away from winning his first Super Bowl after the Rams beat the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game.

Kupp led the NFL this season in the key receiver statistics with 145 receptions, 1,947 yards and 16 touchdowns, and has 386 receiving yards so far in the postseason, which is the third all-time most in playoffs history before the Super Bowl.

During media duties for the NFL ahead of the Super Bowl, Beckham Jr laid out how impressed he has been with the 28-year-old, stating his belief that Kupp deserves to win on Sunday.

"Coming here and being with Coop has just been really amazing for me," he said, "You come in somewhere where they have their guy and you watch and you witness greatness between him and [Matthew] Stafford as far as the attention to detail, the relationship that they have.

"That's everything you want from a QB and a receiver, details, the way he actually runs routes, the football knowledge.

"I've learned so much from him, he's a great guy, obviously an incredible talent and I'm just happy that I made the right choice [to join the Rams]. Now I just feel like he deserves this trophy and he deserves a ring and I just want to help them finish the job."

Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford also gave his thoughts on the game, insisting that despite having stars such as himself, Von Miller, Kupp and Beckham Jr, they have reached the Super Bowl because of the efforts of the entire team.

"As far as a superstar heavy team, I think that's what the outside world probably thinks of us, but for us we just come in to work every single day and we've got nothing but guys who want to work hard."

Stafford also reserved praise for Kupp and Beckham Jr, adding: "Getting to work with Cooper and Odell has been a blast. Obviously I've gotten a full year with Cooper and his greatness and his ability to affect the game both with the football [and] without the football... such a great teammate, such a great friend and football player.

"Then with Odell he's come in since day one, his ability to grasp what we're asking him to do mid-season with no OTAs, no training camp, it was really impressive from my standpoint what he's been able to grasp, go out there and execute and play. He's been huge for us in the playoffs.

"It's been a blast working with those guys, really everybody on this team. I pinch myself sometimes thinking about the opportunity I'm getting to do, getting to play this game, the Super Bowl, with a bunch of great teammates and a bunch of great coaches, just happy for the opportunity." 

Zac Taylor believes Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow is "built for this stage" ahead of Super Bowl LVI on Sunday.

The Bengals face the Los Angeles Rams in their first Super Bowl in 33 years following a dramatic AFC Championship Game win over the Kansas City Chiefs.

Burrow completed 23 of 38 attempts for 250 yards and two touchdowns in that game as the Bengals rallied from 21-3 down to win 27-24 in overtime, equalling the biggest comeback win in a Championship Game.

Sunday's game at SoFi Stadium will be Burrow's first taste of the Super Bowl, yet Taylor thinks the 25-year-old will take it in his stride.

"He is built for this stage. He's played for state championships, he's played for national championships, now he's playing for the Super Bowl," the Bengals' head coach told a media conference.

"I think that's been his expectation all along. He's not surprised by it. He rises to these occasions, and we're certainly happy to have him.

"When you believe that your quarterback can take it the distance, it allows everybody just to play that one per cent better because they know on the other side that the trigger man's capable of doing some really special things.

"So I think he's helped us take us to these heights. We have a lot of confidence in him. He's got a lot of confidence in himself. It's fun to be a part of."

Burrow agreed with Taylor's assessment of his confident nature and does not think he will be overawed by the magnitude of Sunday's game.

"I have always been a confident player," Burrow said.

"More so now than I have ever been before, because I feel like I've proven to myself that I can play at a high level at this level of football.

"I think as a quarterback, it's really important to exude that confidence, not only in yourself but all of your team-mates.

"The quarterback sets the tone for the culture in the locker room, and so I try to be that kind of player and person for everybody here."

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