Super Bowls are usually all about the quarterbacks. Whoever performs the best usually elevates his team to a championship. On Sunday in Super Bowl LVI, we may have a first. A pair of receivers will be the most important players on the field.
Los Angeles Rams star Cooper Kupp had one of the best statistical seasons for a wideout in NFL history. He won the receiving Triple Crown, leading the league in receptions (145), receiving yards (1,947) and touchdowns (16). And, frankly, he should be getting far more MVP consideration.
Meanwhile, Cincinnati Bengals receiver Ja'Marr Chase set four NFL records as a rookie and two Bengals franchise records. If one of them breaks loose, he could dominate the Big Game. That's why defending them each will be so important.
The Bengals need to shut Kupp down to have a chance against the Rams. If they take away Matthew Stafford's primary target, he could struggle. Kupp only had fewer than 100 yards six times during the regular season. LA lost three of those games. The Rams only lost five times all season. LA is also 13-1 when Kupp scores a touchdown and 2-4 when he doesn't. It's clear how important Kupp is to the team's offense.
It will likely fall on nickelback Mike Hilton to defend Kupp out of the slot. He'll likely get help from strong safety Vonn Bell. Hilton wound up with a grade of 72.4 from Pro Football Focus this season. He's a capable nickel corner but he'll have his hands full with Kupp for most of the day.
On the other side, Chase has been a monster all season. Including the postseason, he has 101 receptions for 1,734 yards and 14 touchdowns. He's a big play threat for quarterback Joe Burrow, and his success opens the field for fellow receivers Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd, and tight end C.J. Uzomah. That gives Burrow more options and if the Rams are forced to drop extra defenders into coverage, it will open things up for running back Joe Mixon.
This matchup should be pretty simple and might be the marquee showdown of the Super Bowl. Three-time first-team All-Pro Jalen Ramsey will get the assignment against Chase. The 27-year-old veteran will be tasked with slowing down the 21-year-old rookie, and boy should that one be a blast to watch. Expect a whole lot of trash talk and a whole lot of physicality out of Ramsey.
Both Kupp and Chase are game-changers. They're fully capable of turning the Super Bowl on its head with one big play. It's highly likely that whoever has the bigger day, will see his team win Super Bowl LVI.