Super Bowl 2022: How Rams have health edge over Bengals

By Dr. Matt Provencher
FOX Sports Injury & Performance Analyst

After a long NFL season of ups and downs, and aches and pains, we’re finally here. It’s time for the Super Bowl.

When trying to predict how the big game between the Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals might go down, it can be helpful to look at the health of the two teams. We’ve developed our “Banged Up Score” (BUS) to do just that.

What is the “Banged Up Score?”

What is the "Banged Up Score?"

Dr. Matt Provencher explains what the “Banged Up Score” (BUS) is, and how it affected teams last season in the NFL.

For more analysis of the NFL from Dr. Matt, follow him on Twitter or go to FantasyPredictors.com.

In fact, last season, the Kansas City Chiefs were 3-point favorites against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but the BUS raised a concern, as we noted: “[The] BUS indicates that the Bucs might have the upper hand, with a score of 88 compared to Kansas City’s 82.5.”

Tampa Bay would win the game, 31-9.

Los Angeles Rams

LAR

Cincinnati Bengals

CIN

The Los Angeles Rams are 1-0 (100%) vs. the Cincinnati Bengals over the last three seasons

The Rams are 4-point favorites in Sunday’s big game, but this time there are not any obvious discrepancies between the betting line and the BUS. In fact, the favored Rams also have an edge in health, sporting an overall BUS of 70.4 to the Bengals’ 64.0. 

Cincinnati actually has a better offensive BUS than L.A., 78.7-63.3. But the real edge might be on defense, where the Rams’ BUS of 85.1 is nearly 30 points better than the Bengals’ mark of 58.1.

Digging even further into the data, we see that the Rams’ defensive line has a BUS of 97.5, clearly better than the Bengals’ offensive line, which is at 79.7.

That could spell trouble for Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow, who has already been sacked 12 times this postseason, including nine times in a divisional-round win at Tennessee.

Let’s look at the injury situation of each team.

LOS ANGELES RAMS

The Rams had nine players listed on their initial injury report earlier in the week, though we expected most of them would play.

In fact, L.A. actually got two players back, as running back Darrell Henderson and defensive tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day were both activated from injured reserve on Friday.

The return of Henderson puts the Rams’ backfield at full strength for the first time this season, giving them a potential three-headed running back monster with Henderson, Cam Akers and Sony Michel. 

Joseph-Day has been out since having surgery for a pectoral injury he suffered in Week 7. He should help Aaron Donald on the interior of the defensive line.

The Rams did place tight end Tyler Higbee and offensive lineman Joseph Noteboom on IR, however, and those are key losses for Sunday’s game. Here is a bit on each of those, plus receiver Van Jefferson, who is battling a knee ailment.

Tyler Higbee, TE, sprained MCL

Players miss an average of more than two games with this injury, so it’s no surprise that Higbee is out of the big game. Even if he was able to play, he would have been limited, as most players experience a 35-40% decrease in snap percentage.

Higbee was the Rams’ top tight end this season, catching 61 passes for 560 yards and five touchdowns. His backup, Kendall Blanton, caught four passes for 37 yards.

Joseph Noteboom, OT, pec strain

Noteboom is Andrew Whitworth’s backup, so assuming Whitworth remains healthy through the game, the Rams should be able to weather this one.

Noteboom’s injury is a tough one for offensive linemen, who need their arms on every play as they battle defensive linemen. If he had been able to play, he would have experienced a decrease in strength and productivity.

Van Jefferson, WR, knee

Jefferson aggravated his knee injury against the San Francisco 49ers but returned to the game. While he should play, it’s possible that his snaps will be limited. The Rams will rely on star receivers Cooper Kupp and Odell Beckham Jr. as usual, but having Jefferson out there adds another real threat for opposing defenses to watch out for.

CINCINNATI BENGALS

The Bengals are relatively healthy, and things improved as this past week progressed. The team only had one player listed on its final injury report before the big game — tight end C.J. Uzomah — and he is listed as questionable.

When asked about the tight end, who caught a career-high 49 passes for 493 yards this season, Bengals coach Zac Taylor said Uzomah’s status is “as good as we could’ve hoped, and we expect him to play on Sunday.”

Uzomah sprained his MCL in the AFC Championship win over the Chiefs, but he was able to practice on a limited basis on Thursday, leading to Taylor’s optimism.

Here is are some notes on key Bengals injuries.

C.J. Uzomah, TE, MCL sprain

This is really the same injury the Rams’ Higbee has been dealing with. Uzomah has been a good target for Burrow and the Bengals’ offense. If he can’t play, that would be a big hit for them. However, they showed they can still produce without him on the field against Kansas City.

If Uzomah is able to play, it’s possible that his productivity will be limited.

Cam Sample, DE, groin

Sample has been dealing with a groin issue, which is a very finicky injury. If not given the time to properly heal, it can recur, and it’s debilitating for a position that needs quickness and change of direction. When players return from groin injuries, production decreases on average 40-50% until the player really trusts being able to move in a way that the job requires.

Sample should play, but he is unlikely to show his normal productivity.

Josh Tupou, DT, MCL sprain

The ability to play through an MCL sprain depends a lot on the severity of the injury. Tupou has been practicing in a limited capacity, which is a good sign.

The Bengals have a bit of a beat-up defensive line, so they need Tupou to play if he is able to go.

Renowned orthopedist Dr. Matt Provencher and his company, Proven Performance Technology (PPT), deliver data-driven injury insights to football fans. In this first-of-a-kind role as Athlete Injury and Performance Analyst for FOX Sports’ digital platforms, Provencher provides important predictive player health and recovery information about post-injury performance, the impact of weather, field conditions and more.


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