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Here's how to enjoy the Super Bowl, even if you don't follow football

Here's some background on the teams facing off in this Sunday's Super Bowl.
Frederic J. Brown
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AFP via Getty Images
Here's some background on the teams facing off in this Sunday's Super Bowl.

Updated February 13, 2022 at 6:22 PM ET

In case you haven't been following: The Super Bowl is upon us.

The Los Angeles Rams take on the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl 56 at SoFi stadium in Inglewood, Calif.

It's OK if this is news to you, especially if you're not from Los Angeles or Cincinnati (and even if you are from Los Angeles or Cincinnati). After all, this is the first time that the Super Bowl is taking place during the Olympics.

Whether you're heading to your first Super Bowl party or your friends won't stop talking to you about the big game, having a little bit of background about what's going on will help you get a word in — or at least, let you know what to look for come game time.

Tell me about the teams

The Rams are coming in hot after finishing at the top of their division in the regular season with a 12-5 record. The Bengals were also the top performers in their division, finishing the season with a 10-7 record. If you're someone who roots for the underdog, you might want to get behind the Bengals.

The Rams are coached by Sean McVay, who at age 30 in 2017 was the youngest head coach hired in the NFL's modern history. He already led the Rams to appear in the Super Bowl three years ago. McVay is somewhat of an offensive "savant," said Sheil Kapadia, senior NFL reporter at The Athletic.

While some teams focus on building young talent and a team that could win the Super Bowl in the future, the Rams have focused on building a team that could win right here, right now.

The Bengals, on the other hand, weren't really supposed to get this far, Kapadia said. The odds of them making the Super Bowl in the first place were unconvincing. But in the final acts of the postseason, they swung victories outside of their home turf against the Tennessee Titans and the Kansas City Chiefs.

Zac Taylor, 38, who once held a coaching job under McVay, coaches the Bengals. The face-off makes it the youngest Super Bowl coaching match-up in history.

When Taylor was hired to the Bengals, he said he had learned a lot from his former boss. McVay showed "a lot of us young guys that you can do it your own way," Taylor said.

Taylor taking the the Bengals to the Super Bowl marks a big turnaround for the team from his first two years as head coach in 2019 and 2020, when they were among the worst in the NFL.

Who are the quarterbacks?

Matthew Stafford, the Rams' quarterback, joined the team as part of a large offseason deal announced in March. Stafford, who has been in the NFL for more than a decade, was traded from the Detroit Lions to the Rams.

Los Angeles Rams' Matthew Stafford wams up before the NFC Championship on Jan. 30. A win would show that the Rams signing him was worth it.
Jed Jacobsohn / AP
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AP
Los Angeles Rams' Matthew Stafford wams up before the NFC Championship on Jan. 30. A win would show that the Rams signing him was worth it.

Winning Sunday's game could be proof that the trade was "100% worth it," Kapadia said.

"They're in the Super Bowl," he said. "So this is kind of the culmination of that big trade."

Meanwhile, Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow is in his second season of NFL play. Already, the 25-year-old has become a legend among Bengals fans after a college career that took him from Ohio State to Louisiana State. Before Burrow joined the team, the Bengals hadn't won a playoff game in 31 years.

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow, 25, is in his second season in the NFL.
Eric Gay / AP
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AP
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow, 25, is in his second season in the NFL.

Are there any records on the line?

Both Rams and Bengals wide receivers could be candidates to break the record for most receiving yards in a Super Bowl.

Cooper Kupp, the Ram's wide receiver, finished the 2021 season as the leader in receiving yards across the NFL. Kupp's season record is only 17 yards shy of the record for most receiving yards in a season in NFL history.

Ja'Marr Chase, the Bengals' wide receiver, finished with the fourth highest record for receiving yards during the 2021 season.

What's happening in the halftime show?

If the rest of the event's not for you, the halftime show (and the commercials) might be. The show features Southern California natives Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and Kendrick Lamar, as well as Mary J. Blige and Eminem.

What's going on with COVID at the game?

The Super Bowl was scaled back last year due to the ongoing pandemic, but attendance at this year's match-up will not be capped. In fact, SoFi stadium has the capacity to seat more than 70,000 fans.

Workers paint a logo on the field at SoFi Stadium on Feb. 8.
Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP
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AP
Workers paint a logo on the field at SoFi Stadium on Feb. 8.

Fans at the stadium are required to show proof of vaccination or a negative test. Masks are required at all times except for when eating or drinking.

The stadium, which is the first "indoor-outdoor" stadium to be constructed, is home of the Rams and the Los Angeles Chargers. The structure is topped with a translucent roof.

And even though the Super Bowl will mean the Los Angeles team is playing in Los Angeles, the stadium will still be a neutral site, as locations are chosen years ahead. All of the Rams branding and field colors aren't on the field come game time — which is 6:30 p.m. ET, airing on NBC and NBC streaming platforms.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.