Super Bowl LVI: After years of disappointment, Bengals fans have reason to believe

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For a week now, I’ve been reading about how the Cincinnati Bengals stunned everyone by advancing to Super Bowl LVI. But I’m here to tell you that not everyone was surprised. This long-time Bengals fan has been absolutely convinced since November that the team would win the AFC Championship. Why was I so certain? Well, for that you’ll have to read on, as I explain how trying it has been to be a fan of this franchise for more than 40 years.

The history of the ineptitude of the Cincinnati Bengals has been well documented. The Bengals have never won the Super Bowl, they had never won a road playoff game before this season, and hadn’t won a playoff game of any kind since Jan. 6, 1991, a span of 31 years.

They haven’t always been a bad team. Just invisible. They’re a team that rarely gets flexed into prime-time (one notable exception, the 37-0 stinker of a loss to the Jets in the 2009 regular season finale), or asked to play on holidays (even the Detroit Lions get their annual day in the sun every Thanksgiving). Heck, the greatest player in team history is an offensive lineman. No disrespect to Anthony Munoz, but name another team whose greatest player played on the O-line. Go ahead. I’ll wait. (OK. Jacksonville and Tony Boselli. Great. Now we’re comparing the Bengals to the equally inconspicuous Jaguars. I’d say that proves my point.)

Years to Forget: Reflecting on Bengals’ lowest moments

Why is rooting for the Bengals so unrewarding? Their first great player retired at age 26 to become a musician (all-pro Mike Reid in 1974.) They had a genius assistant coach who was denied the opportunity to become their head coach, and who then went on beat them in the Super Bowl twice. (Bill Walsh, who was passed over in favor of Bill Johnson for the head gig when Paul Brown retired after the 1975 season). When the Bengals had the No. 1 pick in the 1995 NFL Draft they chose Ki-Jana Carter (passing on among others, Tony Boselli!). This came one year after they drafted Dan Wilkinson with the first overall pick instead of Marshall Faulk.

But it’s more than just an inability to draft right or hang onto top players or coaches. For most of their frustrating history, the Bengals were a bad team, once going 14 years without advancing to the playoffs (1991 to 2004). And when they were good, such as the seven times they made the postseason under Marvin Lewis from 2005 to 2015, they found a way to lose every game, often under inexcusable or insufferable circumstances.

The inexcusable happened after the 2009 season, when the Bengals, fresh off the aforementioned 37-0 pounding by the New York Jets in the final regular season game at the Meadowlands—a game that allowed the Jets to get into the playoffs—lost in the wild-card round to the same Jets, 24-14, this time at Paul Brown Stadium, in a game in which Carson Palmer threw for just 146 yards.

The insufferable came against the Steelers in the 2015 Playoffs. The Bengals pulled ahead of their hated rivals late in their first-round game, overcoming a 15-0 deficit to take a 16-15 lead with 1:50 to play. Ignoring the team’s previous playoff history of not holding onto late leads, many fans, including myself, believed that the playoff victory drought had come to an end, especially after Vontaze Burfict intercepted a Ben Roethlisberger pass on the next Steeler possession. But never underestimate the Bengals ability wrestle defeat from the jaws of victory. A lost fumble gave the ball back to the Steelers with 1:23 to play, and in the closing seconds with the ball near midfield, Burfict committed the most egregious penalty in the history of Cincinnati football, leading with his shoulder to the head of Antonio Brown (after the ball had gone past the receiver), resulting in a 15-yard personal foul penalty. A subsequent unsportsmanlike conduct call against Adam Jones (why, oh why, wasn’t Steeler assistant coach Joey Porter penalized for being on the field!) moved the Steelers into field-goal range. Of course the Steelers won 18-16.

In addition, the Bengals have had ridiculously bad luck. Remember the injury to Palmer in the wild-card round game against the Pittsburgh Steelers after the 2005 season. On the Bengals second offensive play, defensive tackle Kimo von Oelhoffen—a former Bengal, by the way—rolled awkwardly into Palmer’s left leg and knocked him to the ground. As the crowd was cheering a 66-yard completed pass to Chris Henry, Palmer lay on the ground in pain, his game ended by a torn ACL and MCL in his left knee. After that injury the Bengals, had no chance against the Steelers, losing 31-17.

Previous memories of Bengals glory

Despite all the desolation, there have been highlights—times when the Bengals were allowed to have good things and kept you coming back. There was the Monday night win over the San Diego Chargers in 1982, when Ken Anderson completed 40 passes for more than 400 yards; the 61-7 win over the hated Oilers in December 1989; Corey Dillon’s 278-yard rushing performance against the Broncos on a Thursday night in 2000; season-ending wins over the Steelers and Ravens to get into the 2012 playoffs; and the 8-0 start in 2016 before the season turned sour with consecutive losses to the Texans and Cardinals, the latter in a game flexed to primetime. (In retrospect, maybe it’s a good thing Bengals rarely play on Sunday night.)

The great Anderson, four times the NFL’s leading passer, led them to the Super Bowl during his 1981 MVP season—the first year the team wore their now signature striped helmets—with a memorable win in the Freezer Bowl in the AFC Championship game against the Chargers. That team, anchored by Munoz, also featured a wide receiver from Florida with a strangely spelled first name who gained 1,000 receiving yards as a rookie. Anyone know what happened to Cris Collinsworth?

After the 1988 season, a Boomer Esiason-led Bengal team utilized the controversial “no huddle” offense during playoff victories over Seattle and Buffalo to advance to the Super Bowl once again.

But in both of those Super Bowl seasons, the Bengals reverted to what would eventually be their norm—ridiculous luck with injuries, insurmountable deficits, and unanticipated misfortunes—during the title game.

In January 1982 against the 49ers, Bengals nose tackle Tim Krumrie broke his left leg in four places on the 14th play of the game. Losing one of their best defensive players early led to a—yes, insurmountable—20-0 halftime deficit. And although the Bengals would only lose 26-21, the outcome was never really in doubt.

Seven years later in 1989, again playing the 49ers, one the most unfortunate player absences in the history of the Super Bowl occurred when starting running back Stanley Wilson suffered a drug relapse the day before the game and was removed from the roster. Coach Sam Wyche later opined that the loss of the team’s leading rusher that close to Sunday undoubtedly contributed to the team’s 20-16 loss to the 49ers.

It gets better. Or worse. After a Jim Breech field goal gave the Bengals a 16-13 lead with 3:20 to play in the game, Joe Montana led the 49ers on a 92-yard game-winning drive to give them a 20-16 victory.  Talk about misfortune! They would never get back to the Super Bowl.

Why Bengals fans have a reason to believe

Until this year, that is. Call it the Burrow Effect if you want, but this team feels different. The shenanigans, shall we say, that have contributed to Bengals losses over the last 40 or so years have been mostly absent this year. Heck, the Bengals were even one of the least penalized teams in the NFL this season. It’s only a slight exaggeration to say Burfict committed that many by himself.

The AFC Championship game is a great example of the new Bengals. Down 21-3 at one point, Cincy took a three-point lead with six minutes left in the fourth quarter, giving Chiefs superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes plenty of time to mount a game-winning touchdown drive. But this wasn’t a replay of the Montana Super Bowl. The Chiefs settled for a tying field goal, and when Mahomes got the ball back to start overtime, the Bengals intercepted him three plays into the extra session. It was almost too easy.

This Bengals team is even getting the breaks. Remember the inadvertent whistle on the touchdown play in Cincinnati’s wild-card round victory over the Las Vegas Raiders? In the past, the Bengals opponents would have scored on such a play, or the score would have been wiped out costing the Bengals a touchdown. This time fortune went Cincinnati’s way. Who knew that could happen?

And injuries? Tight end C.J. Uzomah, hurt in the AFC Championship game, might be able to give it a go in the Super Bowl. At least coach Zac Taylor says the outlook is “encouraging.” No Krumrie or Palmer here.

There’s a confident swagger about this team. The comments rookie kicker Evan McPherson made prior to his game-winning kick against the Tennessee Titans might go down as the cockiest statement made about the outcome of a pro football game since Joe Namath’s Super Bowl III “guarantee.” And Joe Burrow looks like a guy who can’t lose. Remember, too, he has more experience in big games than Matthew Stafford, his Rams counterpart. Burrow is just two years removed from leading LSU to the 2019 NCAA Championship, passing for 463 yards and five touchdowns in a 42-25 rout of Clemson. No stage is too big for Joe Cool.

The previous two times the Bengals went to the Super Bowl they were coming off double-digit loss, last-place seasons. They were 6-10 in 1980 and last in the AFC Central before turning things around under Forrest Gregg to win the division the following year. They were 4-11 in 1987 before going 12-4 in 1988 for another worst-to-first performance. Sound familiar? They were 4-11-1 last year before another turnaround led to their third trip to the Super Bowl.

Personally, however, that’s not why I knew the Bengals would reach SB LVI. Sorry Bengals fans, I knew the Bengals would make the big game, but I’m not counting on a win. You see, I’m also a long-time fan of the Phoenix Suns and the Houston Astros (something about the color orange perhaps). Six months ago the Suns lost in the NBA Finals. Three months ago the Astros lost the World Series. After the Fall Classic, I became certain the Bengals would lose in the Super Bowl.

But I’m trying to believe. Can the Bengals actually win the Super Bowl? I’m hopeful, but I’m wary of the cliché about altering patterns. Have these tigers really changed their stripes? After everything Bengals fans have been through with this team, can you blame me for being pessimistic?

Then again this is my third team in six months to reach its league championship and it’s the third Bengals team to reach the Super Bowl. So ignoring the fact that “bad things tend to come in threes,” I’m reminded of another cliché.

Third time’s the charm.

John Antonini works in the Editorial Research Department for Golf Channel and NBC Sports. Despite growing up in Connecticut, he has been a Cincinnati Bengals fan for more than 40 years.

What to know about the 2023 Pro Bowl: Dates, how to watch/live stream info, AFC, NFC coaches, competition schedule, and more

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The 2023 NFL Pro Bowl will take place over the course of two days at Allegiant Stadium–home of the Las Vegas Raiders–in Paradise, Nevada. The excitement begins on Thursday, February 2 as NFL fan-favorites compete in a brand-new skills challenge featuring the following events: Epic Pro Bowl Dodgeball, Lightning Round, Longest Drive, Precision Passion, and Best Catch.

Sunday, February 5 will feature the following: the Best Catch Finale, Gridiron Gauntlet, Kick Tack Toe, Move the Chains, and three seven-on-seven non-contact Flag football games between the league’s best players.

See below for additional information on how to watch the 2023 Pro Bowl as well as answers to all of your frequently asked questions.

RELATED: What to know about Super Bowl 2023 – Date, location, halftime performance info, and much more

Who are the coaches for the 2023 Pro Bowl?

AFC Coaches:

  • Peyton Manning – Head Coach
  • Ray Lewis – Defensive Coordinator
  • Diana Flores – Offensive Coordinator

NFC Coaches:

  • Eli Manning – Head Coach
  • Demarcus Ware – Defensive Coordinator
  • Vanita Krouch – Offensive Coordinator

How will the 2023 Pro Bowl be different from previous editions of the event?

Rather than the traditional tackle football game, this year’s Pro Bowl will debut a skills competition and a non-contact flag football game.

How will scoring work?

According to the NFL, points will be calculated in the following way:

  • The winning conference of each skill competition earns three points towards their team’s overall score, with 24 total points available across the eight skills events.
  • The winning conference from each of the first two Flag football games on Sunday will earn six points for their team, for a total of 12 available points.
  • Points from the skills competitions and first two Flag games will be added together and will be the score at the beginning of the third and final Flag game, which will determine the winning conference for The Pro Bowl Games.

How to watch the 2023 Pro Bowl:

  • Where: Allegiant Stadium in Paradise, Nevada
  • When: Thursday, February 2 (7:00 PM ET) and Sunday, February 5 (3:00 PM ET)
  • TV Channel: ESPN, ABC, and Disney XD

When is Super Bowl 2023?

Super Bowl 2023 takes place on Sunday, February 12 at 6:30 p.m. ET on Fox.

Where is Super Bowl 2023?

Super Bowl 2023 will be contested at State Farm Stadium–home of the Arizona Cardinals– in Glendale, Arizona.

What teams are playing in Super Bowl 2023?

The Philadelphia Eagles will face the Kansas City Chiefs marking the first time since 2017 that both top seeds qualified for the Super Bowl.


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Super Bowl food 2023: Appetizer, entrée, and dessert ideas for Super Bowl LVII inspired by the Eagles and Chiefs

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As the countdown continues toward Super Bowl LVII, the Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs are getting their game plans set. But while they go over their plays, the rest of America goes over their menus in preparation for the big day. When it comes to the Super Bowl, everything is always the best — the best teams, the best performers and, of course, the best food.

But how can you impress your party in the kitchen while showing support for your favorite team? Let’s take a look at some iconic food from each of the Super Bowl team cities to prepare for Super Bowl LVII.

RELATED: What to know about Super Bowl LVII: Date, location, how to watch

Philadelphia Super Bowl food

Crabfries

Why have plain old fries when you could have crabfries? That’s exactly what Pete Ciarrocchi, the CEO of the legendary Philadelphia restaurant Chickie and Pete’s, said one day when creating this intriguing concoction.

While the name may be misleading, crabfries do not contain any actual crab, but rather a blend of spices and Old Bay seasoning that allow the dish to take on a subtle seafood flavor. Topped with a creamy, cheesy dipping sauce, the crinkle-cut fries are sure to take your taste buds to the next level.

Cheesesteak sloppy joes

It simply isn’t Philly without a cheesesteak. Keep it casual in your kitchen on Super Bowl Sunday with Katie Lee Biegel’s Philly Cheesesteak sloppy joes, an easy way to rep the Birds.

Can’t get enough of the cheesesteak? Bring some more Philly specials to the table with this cheesesteak dip, the perfect way to amp up your appetizer game and leave party guests feeling like they just took a trip to the City of Brotherly Love.

RELATED: Rob Gronkowski predicts Eagles to win Super Bowl LVII

Water ice

Is the action of the game heating up? Cool down with a classic Philly treat, water ice. First originating in Bensalem, Pennsylvania in 1984, the icy dessert is now sold in over 600 stores nationwide. The original Rita’s Water Ice shop, however, still remains open for business.

You can even show a little extra passion for the Birds by whipping up this green apple variation, sure to leave you refreshed and ready for the Lombardi.

Kansas City Super Bowl food

Cheese slippers

If you’re looking for a classy, yet authentic appetizer to bring to the table, there’s no better fit than the cheese slipper. This ciabatta loaf baked with melty cheeses and topped with seasonal vegetables and herbs has Kansas City natives hooked.

While the bread is typically baked to perfection by local shops, test your own skill level with this gourmet slipper bread recipe that you can complete with the mouth-watering toppings of your choice.

RELATED: How many Super Bowls have the Chiefs been to, won?

BBQ burnt ends

It’s rare to hear the words Kansas City without barbeque following short after. If you’re looking to impress your guests with your Super Bowl food spread, get out to the grill and start showing off.

While many cities in America know how to cook up some excellent BBQ, the combination of the sweet flavors and mouth-watering sauce has made Kansas City a hub for barbeque lovers for decades.

BBQ burnt ends, while a bit time-consuming, are  well worth a little elbow grease. The dish is also one of the few in Kansas City with a distinct origin story. The meal first found its creation at Arthur Bryant’s Barbeque, a legendary African American restaurant in KC. Bryant originally made the burnt ends from the trimmings of pork belly, but since then, BBQ lovers have made incredible bites out of many styles of meat.

And if you’re feeling extra ambitious, try fixing up some classic Kansas City sides to pair with your entrée to perfection.

RELATED: What to know about Rihanna, the Super Bowl LVII halftime performer

Chiefs chocolate chip cookies

While there is no specific dessert that defines the Heart of America, you can still show your Kansas City pride with these ever-colorful Chiefs chocolate chip cookies.

Make sure to have your food dye handy, because the red and yellow hue of these cookies are sure to show everyone whose side you are on.

Or, if you’re feeling artistic, design an eye-catching Chiefs jersey out of the fan-favorite rice krispie treats. Whether you make Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce or Chris Jones, you’ll have the tastiest Super Bowl jerseys around.

How to watch the Super Bowl 2023 – Philadelphia Eagles vs Kansas City Chiefs:

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