Everything you need to know to enjoy the Super Bowl
The greatest show on turf
Ah, February. The end of January, Valentines Day, the sense of spring around the corner. And the Super Bowl.
One of the highlights of the sporting year is upon us once more, and it should be a belter.
On Sunday night [and into Monday morning], the Cincinnati Bengals will take on the LA Rams at the SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles - more on the venue in a bit - bringing the curtain down on one of the greatest NFL seasons the sport has ever seen.
It doesn't matter if you don't know your punt from your field goal, or your play action from your Hail Mary. We're here to tell you that no matter your level of expertise on the NFL, you will be able to enjoy Super Bowl LVI.
And not just because of the stunning half-time show lineup of Dr Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Mary J Blige and Kendrick Lamar. Yes, really.
How to watch the Super Bowl in Ireland and the UK
For fans in Ireland and the UK, you can watch the game on the BBC and Sky Sports.
The Super Bowl will be shown live on Sky Sports Main Event from 10pm tonight [February 13]. Kickoff will be at 11:30pm. The game, depending on stoppages, challenges and potential overtime will run until 3:30am.
Coverage of the game starts from 11pm on BBC, with cameras picking up the live feed from kick-off at 11:30pm.
Let's start in the obvious place though - the teams involved...
A true underdog story
If the Bengals pull off the win on Sunday, then it will be one of the greatest underdog stories you could possibly imagine.
Why? Because two years ago they were the worst. Literally. Of the 32 teams in the NFL, they had the worst record, finishing with just two wins and 14 defeats.
But this gave them the first overall pick in the draft, which is where the NFL sides pick the brightest stars from the world of college football to join them. And the Bengals picked up Joe Burrow - more on him in a little bit.
Last season wasn't much better for them though, finishing with just four wins. In fact, at the start of this season, the Bengals were 150/1 to win the Super Bowl. For years they have been the butt of the jokes in the NFL, as demonstrated by the memes below.
PARENTS! Make sure to check your children’s candy this Halloween. Just found Bengals tickets in my kid’s Halloween bag. Some sick people out there... pic.twitter.com/RfD0109zu7
— NFL Memes (@NFL_Memes) November 1, 2019
But only one team is laughing now.
They come up against the LA Rams in the showpiece event on Sunday, who couldn't be much further from Cincinnati.
Look at them as the PSG of the NFL, a franchise based in a very attractive place to live that has spent big assembling a team of all-stars and for whom anything other than the title would represent a major disappointment.
Cooper Kupp. Aaron Donald. Odell Beckham Jr. Matthew Stafford. You'll hear these names a lot on Sunday night.
They last reached the Super Bowl in 2018, where they were disappointed in a drab 13-3 defeat to Tom Brady's New England Patriots.
Meanwhile, the Bengals have never won the Super Bowl, and this year ended their 33-year wait for a playoff win, which was the longest drought in the league.
Here's some context around quite how long their drought was.
As you can imagine, it was therefore a pretty big deal for their fans when they beat Kansas City with the final kick of the game in the last round then.
‘We’re going to the Super Bowl!’: Relive the moment the Cincinnati Bengals made history pic.twitter.com/ghw5UO03hC
— Enquirer (@Enquirer) February 3, 2022
Just when you thought the Bengals couldn't be bigger underdogs, Sunday's match is taking place at the home of the LA Rams, SoFi Stadium.
This is a complete coincidence as the host stadium for Super Bowls is usually decided two or three years in advance, and this will be just the second time that a team has played a 'home' Super Bowl after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers achieved the same feat last year.
Safe to say then, neutrals are only backing one side on Sunday.
And that's before we've even mentioned this guy...
The youthful dynamo, Joe Burrow
American football is a unique sport because it is completely normal for one player to single-handedly change a team. Here in the UK, if your side was labeled a one-man team you'd take it as an insult.
In the NFL, the quarterback is king.
And with all due respect to the LA Rams and their quarterback Matt Stafford, the focus is on his opposite number this game - Joe Burrow.
It's no exaggeration to say that the Bengals' quarterback has transformed the franchise.
Burrow was drafted in 2020 by the Bengals as a 'franchise quarterback' - he would become the face of the team, turning the team around and writing his name into franchise folklore.
But they never expected this to happen so quickly.
Joe Burrow the escape artist! pic.twitter.com/kkCwb4pKMy
— NFL UK (@NFLUK) January 30, 2022
We haven't even mentioned the style this man has yet. They call him Joe Cool for a reason.
So as a young superstar with the world at his feet, you're probably thinking he's unbearable and the fame has gone to his head. Wrong.
— NFL (@NFL) February 7, 2022
There's a strong chance that Super Bowl LVI goes down in history as the day when Joe Burrow announced himself as a superstar.
Don't just take our word for it. Here's Odell Beckham Jr. discussing the Bengals' QB.
— Mary Kay Cabot (@MaryKayCabot) February 7, 2022
Remember his name, because there is every chance in 10 years' time Burrow is at a similar sports superstar status as the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Roger Federer, and Usain Bolt.
Out with the old, in with the new
Burrow is just one of several potential superstar quarterbacks that have hit the scene this season though.
2021 may well go down as a watershed year in the NFL, a season in which the sport has said goodbye to two of its greats, and welcomed in a raft of exciting new talent who could elevate the sport to levels it has never seen before.
Those greats? 'Big' Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady.
This season was Big Ben's final one in the NFL, bringing down a 17-year career in the sport. He spent the entirety of his NFL career at the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he appeared in three Super Bowls, winning two of them.
But of course, this pales in comparison to the achievements of the undeniable GOAT Tom Brady. Seven Super Bowls wins, five Super Bowl MVPs (Most Valuable Player), three-time NFL MVP, and won the Super Bowl last year at the age of 43.
It is now the end of an era in the NFL. 👏🏽
Peyton Manning: 2015
Eli Manning: 2019
Drew Brees: 2020
Philip Rivers: 2020
Ben Roethlisberger: 2021
Tom Brady: 2021 pic.twitter.com/M4ZsFhEkVj
— The Micbomb (@TheMicbombPod) February 1, 2022
If NFL big wigs were concerned about big names retiring, then they had no reason to be.
Patrick Mahomes was already a big name for the Kansas City Chiefs, and Lamar Jackson's time will surely come soon, whether that's with the Baltimore Ravens or not.
But after this season adds the aforementioned Joe Burrow to the list of superstar youngsters, along with Josh Allen from the Buffalo Bills, and Justin Herbert from the LA Chargers.
The future of the NFL is in good hands with these guys 🥲 pic.twitter.com/HQQvXTU5ZV
— AP Football 🌵𓅓🍎 (@Light_2610) January 24, 2022
If there was ever a time to become a fan of the NFL, it's now.
This is coming off the back of a season in which, thanks to the regular season being expanded from 16 to 17 games, records were tumbling left, right and centre.
If you watch the Super Bowl on Sunday (which in case you hadn't clocked by now, you absolutely should be doing), you'll hear the name Cooper Kupp a lot.
The LA Rams star wide receiver has had an incredible season, topping the charts for receiving touchdowns, receptions (catches), and receiving yards, making him the first player since 2005 to top each of these charts.
Cooper Kupp so far this postseason:
vs Cardinals: 5 catches, 61 yards, TD
at Bucs: 9 catches, 183 yards, TD
vs 49ers: 11 catches, 142 yards, 2 TD
With 7 catches on Sunday, he would set the record for most catches in a single playoffs in NFL history (32).
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) February 9, 2022
Meanwhile, the Steelers' T.J. Watt tied Michael Strahan's 20-year-old record for most sacks (tackling the quarterback to the ground with the ball) in a season with 22.5.
Tom Brady broke another record by registering the most completions in a season (485), Jaylen Waddle broke the single-season record for most receptions made by a rookie (104), and Justin Jefferson broke the record for most receptions in players first two seasons (196).
And finally, Justin Tucker scored the longest field goal in NFL history, at a monster 66 yards.
— NFL UK (@NFLUK) September 26, 2021
Last minute drama
That's not enough for you? Well how about some drama. When it comes to scripts, few sports have written them quite like the NFL this season.
Of the 12 play-off games in the postseason, eight were decided by seven points or less, the equivalent of one touchdown.
There were upsets as well, with the number one seeds from both the NFC (Green Bay Packers) and the AFC (Tennessee Titans) being knocked out at home in their first games of the playoffs.
Five of the postseason games were 'walk off' wins, won with the final play of the game, including all four of the games in the divisional round over January 22-23, which was perhaps the greatest weekend in the history of the NFL.
— NFL (@NFL) January 24, 2022
And then there was Buffalo Bills vs Kansas City Chiefs, which featured one of the most thrilling climaxes to a sports match you will ever see.
Take four minutes out of your day to watch the below.
— NFL UK (@NFLUK) January 24, 2022
All of this has left many asking one question: has this been...
The best season ever?
In a word: probably. For all the reasons mentioned above.
Believe us when we tell you the drama mentioned in this piece has been going on all season. After a 2020 season which was impacted by Covid just like so many other things, the NFL has exploded in to life this season.
The drama, the records, the upsets. The emotional goodbyes and the emergence of superstars. It's had it all.
And if you still aren't convinced...
The Super Bowl has become just as much about the music and entertainment at halftime as it has the actual sport.
From pop queens like Beyonce and Shakira, to rock legends, such as The Who and The Rolling Stones, some of the biggest names in music have taken to the halftime stage.
And of course, no one will ever forget Prince in 2007.
One of the most iconic nights in Prince's career occurred on this day in 2007 when he performed the greatest Super Bowl halftime show of all time, culminating in his peformance of "Purple Rain" in the rain.pic.twitter.com/OIgwPmnxBY
— PRINCE LEGION (@PRNLegion) February 4, 2022
As long as you're big enough and will put on a show, you can perform.
This year the halftime show lineup feels like a statement from the organisers. Dr. Dre, Eminem, Kendrick Lamar, Snoop Dogg and Mary J Blige will be performing to hundreds of millions around the world, as the NFL continues to grapple with its race issues.
Infamously in 2019, the likes of Rihanna, Adele and Cardi B all rejected the opportunity to perform at the Super Bowl in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick and his kneeling during the national anthem in protest against racial discrimination in the US.
This led to Maroon 5 and Adam Levine putting on a forgetful show. The last two years have been a return to form with Shakira and Jennifer Lopez smashing it in 2020 and The Weeknd providing great meme content in 2021. But this year's lineup is arguably the biggest ever.
So there you go. An underdog fairytale, superstars wherever you look, one of the greatest seasons ever, and an insane halftime show lineup. Get those snacks in, try and blag Monday morning off work, and enjoy the fun.