It’s Super Bowl week! The entire NFL season leads up to the best teams in the AFC (the Cincinnati Bengals) and the NFC (the Los Angeles Rams) facing off for the Vince Lombardi Trophy. Cincinnati has been here twice, coming came up short against the San Francisco 49ers both times. The Rams are making their fifth appearance, having one win and three losses thus far. We have some key players already playing for the title, like quarterbacks Joe Burrow and Matthew Stafford of their respective competing teams. But in addition to those already eligible, who else would you like to see play in football’s biggest game of the year? Even more so, who deserves a ring? Our team of writers has their takes on who they think should be sporting some new hardware in the near future, if not on Sunday after the game.
Associate Sports Editor
Joey Franchise is probably the most fitting nickname for Mr. Joseph Burrow, with how he literally shaped the Bengals to what the team is today in such a short tenure. To even be going to the Super Bowl is already a huge step considering the odds were against Cincinnati all season long, but somehow the Bengals are still underdogs for this weekend. Did everyone forget the run that LSU had in 2019? Not only did the Tigers win the National Championship, but their fearless leader Joey B also won the Heisman Trophy. After being drafted first overall in the 2020 NFL draft by the Bengals, Joe “Brrr” only played a few games before tearing both his ACL and MCL during his rookie season, with 2021-22 being his first full season back on the gridiron. The result? Comeback player of the year. The talent and class that Burrow upholds throughout it all makes him the most deserving of a ring and he’s only one win away from making him the first player in football history to win a National Championship, Heisman Trophy, and Super Bowl title — all in the span of three years. Pretty icy if you ask me, so give Joe Cool some more drip! Joe Shiesty makes too much money to have fake diamonds, so I’m hoping he can add some more real ones to his collection.
This is the biggest sleeper pick for someone who needs to win a ring and there’s not a doubt in my mind about it. This is the same kicker with one of the best names in football and the same player who sent Tom Brady packing to the retirement home. In just his third year in the league, a ring for Gay would certainly be an impressive accomplishment, especially after he saw the field in just seven games last season. He’s come back this year to nail 94% of his kicks and become a reliable piece on a championship roster. If the Rams do get into trouble and need someone to grab them the win, I’m looking at Gay to send Joe Burrow and the Bengals home, just like he did to Brady.
Although the Rams have been a Super Bowl contender for the past few years, no one expected this team to be led to the game of the year by veteran quarterback Matthew Stafford. The former Detroit Lions quarterback has never made it this far before, having only three playoff appearances and zero victories in his 12 seasons there. Having thrown for almost 5,000 yards this season, Stafford is putting up the numbers of an elite quarterback who has proven to the league that he is one of the best. I have watched Stafford for a long time now; he is a competitor who gives it his all every Sunday and has always been a team player. If there is anybody out of these two teams that deserve a Super Bowl ring the most, it is Matthew Stafford. With the Rams having the home-field advantage, the brilliant football mind of Coach Sean McVay and depth on the offensive and defensive side, we should see Stafford holding up the Lombardi Trophy at the end of the night.
I want this one for Aaron Donald real bad. The best defensive player (and some could even argue the best player overall) in the league deserves to finally get his chip. After years of lingering on mediocre St. Louis and Los Angeles Rams teams, he has a really good chance of finally winning the big game. With two other defensive stalwarts on his side, cornerback Jalen Ramsey, and linebacker Von Miller, Donald sets the tone for a Rams defense that is as tough as it is dominant. As far as I can see, he has almost all the Hall of Fame credentials: eight-time Pro Bowl, seven-time All-Pro, and four-time Defensive Player of the Year, not to mention a Defensive Rookie of the Year nod, showing how truly dominant he’s been throughout his whole career. The last thing he’s missing? A Super Bowl ring. One of those puts him in the conversation with Reggie White and Bruce Smith for greatest D-lineman of all time.
Hasn’t this guy been through enough? He spent 11 years with the Bengals and didn’t win a playoff game in six tries. After the 2016 season, he went over to Los Angeles and made a Super Bowl appearance within two seasons, only to come up short against the New England Patriots. Whitworth is 40 years old and has proven why he consistently is one of the best offensive linemen in the league. His four Pro Bowl appearances and two All-Pro selections are a testament to his durability and duty to protect the quarterback at all costs. There are several great options here, as only Von Miller is the biggest notable player with a Super Bowl ring (and a Super Bowl MVP to boot), but at the same time, if this ends up being the final game of Whitworth’s borderline Hall of Fame career (it probably won’t be), then there’s no better way to go out then with a Lombardi. Just ask Peyton Manning or John Elway.
Cooper Kupp hasn’t had quite the sorrowful NFL career that Mathew Stafford has had (being a great player on a horrible franchise), but he doesn’t have a ring yet nonetheless. After graduating from FCS Eastern Washington, Kupp made a splash early with the Rams, but didn’t quite emerge until last year, when he put up solid numbers as the No. 2 receiving option. From there, with the help of a quarterback change and Robert Woods’ injury, Kupp took hold of the Rams’ offense, leading the NFL in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns – the receiving triple crown. A season like this deserves to be rewarded with a ring, so let’s see it happen.
Odell Beckham Jr.
Three letters and a whole lot of personality, O.B.J. The man from “Him University” needs this ring more than anything. As a New Yorker, it was a treat watching Odell Beckham Jr. perform week in and week out, but heartbreaking to see the way it unfolded. In order to be at peace again, I need him to win his first ring and get the critics off of his back. While his time in Cleveland was promising, it did not go the way many thought it would, even with Jarvis Landry complimenting him. At times I felt his stint with the Browns was more difficult to watch than with Big Blue. This further proved that it is not just the wand, but the wizard too. That being said, this situation couldn’t have been better written, as he became a free agent and was sent to a team that had all the right offensive weapons to match his talents with defense to back it up. Beckham has gone through too much in such little time in his eight years of NFL football for it not to end with a championship ring. Although it has taken some time for him to find the right fit, he has landed where stars are born. The only thing left to do is win the Oscar!