Friday, May 27, 2022

Five reasons to root for Rams to reach Super Bowl 56: Matthew Stafford dispels myths, Cam Akers miracle

OK, so Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were the first in NFL history to host a Super Bowl, subsequently going on to win it as well in a beatdown of Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs last year. But with the Los Angeles Rams having dealt the death blow to Brady in the NFC Divisional Round, they’ll now get a chance at achieving what the Bucs did, but first they’ll have to avoid a three-game sweep at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers when both teams take the field at SoFi Stadium in the NFC Championship. It’s set to be a lights-out battle between the two, with both deserving of a shot at a ring, but only one can retake the field in LA two weeks later.

The 49ers have a lot of feel-good storylines to root for, but so do the Rams, and there’s truly no shortage of reasons to hope they finally get over the hump — from the standpoint of a football fan in general. 

Here are just a handful to consider as you get ready for this weekend’s bout: 

Mythbusters

As it stands, there’s a prevailing belief by many that Matthew Stafford can’t get it done on the biggest stages of the game. Having long been the quarterback for the Detroit Lions, Stafford was able to lead that franchise to several playoff appearances but never to the NFC Championship or beyond. He’s now taken the Rams to championship weekend with a shot at stamping his first-ever ticket to a Super Bowl in only one season in Los Angeles, however, making it clear it might’ve been an organizational issue in Detroit and not one with the quarterback. So as Stafford readies to take on the San Francisco 49ers for the third time this season, he’ll do so having eviscerated Kyler Murray and outlasted the almighty Tom Brady on the road — in a story he hopes has a Hollywood ending.

Green Akers

It’s one of the more unbelievable comeback stories you’ll see in sports, and quite literally up there with what was witnessed from Adrian Peterson in yesteryear after having suffered a torn ACL and then returning to absolutely own the league. Granted, Akers isn’t rattling off 200-yard games just yet, but the fact he’s even on the field at all this postseason is a miraculous feat. Having torn his Achilles in mid-July, Akers was placed on what many justifiably believed would be season-ending injured reserve and torpedoing what might’ve been a breakout season for him. He’d instead buck the odds and return to the field for the postseason, and that alone deserves a rooting interest. If he can have a breakout game in the NFC Championship, it’s OK to hope he’s rewarded for all of his hard work with a ring.

The king’s ring

No, we’re not talking about LeBron James here. We’re talking about the football king of Los Angeles, and his name is Aaron Donald, a perennial All-Pro and future first ballot Hall of Fame defensive lineman who is the best in the business at pummeling opposing quarterbacks, but who has also not yet tasted the Big Prize. He came close in 2018, when the Rams went on a tear to finish at 13-3 en route to their first Super Bowl appearance since 2001, but they fell short in a major way — thanks to Jared Goff and the sudden ineptitude of an offense figured out easily by Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. The Rams mustered only three points in the most important game of their lives, but Stafford gives them a better shot and that means Donald has a chance at avoiding being “just another” Hall of Famer who never won it all.

Exoneration

You’ve all heard the rumors: Odell Beckham Jr. is a team-wrecker. That’s the narrative that’s been attached to him since his days with the New York Giants, one that was made worse due to his rough stint with the Cleveland Browns. But lo and behold, Beckham has been anything but a team-wrecker for the Rams, unless you count the opposing teams he’s helping to wreck. The veteran wideout has been the consummate team player and that’s not to say he wasn’t prior to now, but it is to say this side of him is now being displayed on football’s big screen of optics. He’s producing in ways he hasn’t since his time with Big Blue, and has been key in complementing Cooper Kupp since the loss of Robert Woods ahead of the OBJ trade. Should Beckham finally get his first ring, the days of fighting kicking nets will be all but deleted from memory.

It’s Miller time

They said he was washed up, but it looks more like Von Miller is dry clean only. The future Hall of Famer parted ways this season with his beloved Denver Broncos via trade to the Rams, and after a battle with injury to start his career in Los Angeles, he’s come on strong to help with their late-season and postseason push to the NFC Championship. Yes, and unlike Donald, Miller has already reached the zenith of the sport, but he also then suffered injuries that threatened to end his career on a bad note. He now has the chance to flip that script entirely, and to help lift the Rams to their first Super Bowl win since the 1999 season — when Kurt Warner led the charge. Miller hasn’t hinted at any possible retirement after this season, but time waits for no man (except for Brady, apparently), and Miller knows this might be his last shot at hoisting another Lombardi trophy.

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