Very few expected the Los Angeles Rams to be 1-1 heading into a Week 3 matchup and Super Bowl re-match against the Cincinnati Bengals. The Rams blowing out the Seattle Seahawks and then only losing by a touchdown and remaining competitive against the San Francisco 49ers would have been unfathomable.
It’s only two games, but in those games on thing has become obvious. The Rams are going to be competitive at the very least in 2023.
Outside of the mindset of the team, the Rams have an opportunity in front of them on Monday Night Football. In three games, the Rams have played three opponents that many would have considered playoff teams at the beginning of the season. If they end up 2-1 in those games, what does that say about the Rams?
The Bengals come in at 0-2 and not looking like a team that has made the Super Bowl an AFC Championship game over the past two years. Joe Burrow isn’t healthy and it shows in the Bengals offense. This was a bit of a transition or throw-away for the Rams. If they end up 2-1 after three games with a matchup against the Indianapolis Colts on the horizon, the mindset shifts.
This is a Rams team that is still looking to prove themselves to the rest of the league. With that said, the Bengals are also in a desperate spot in Week 3.
Rams Offense vs. Bengals Defense
In Week 1, the Rams offense ran the ball 37 times are were in 12 personnel on 19 percent of their offensive plays. After a heavy dose of 12 personnel in Week 1, they only ran three plays from 12 last Sunday against the 49ers.
It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Rams get back to 12 personnel and run the football much more than they did in Week 2. The Bengals have allowed 192 rushing yards per game this season which ranks 31st and have allowed 13 explosive plays on the ground which is by far the most in the NFL. Their run defense EPA ranks 26th and they’re 28th in success rate. This has to be a Kyren Williams game. It’s possible that Ronnie Rivers also gets involved.
Matchup to Watch: Kyren Williams vs. Bengals linebacks
While the Rams will definitely be looking to establish a run game, Williams could definitely see some involvement as a receiver as McVay looks to take advantage of the Bengals linebackers in coverage. Logan Wilson has allowed seven receptions on 11 targets this season. Neither the Cleveland Browns nor the Baltimore Ravens have a receiving back. Look for the Rams to isolate Williams and hit him down the sideline.
Rams Defense vs. Bengals Offense
The Rams defense has made it difficult for Geno Smith and Brock Purdy over the last two weeks. Smith had his worst game as a Seahawk in Week 1 and Purdy only threw for 206 yards and for the first time in the regular season, the 49ers quarterback was held without a touchdown pass.
Burrow is only 3-for-18 beyond 10 yards and outside the numbers. With his calf injury, he’s unable to drive the ball down the field. The Rams have to be able to take away the underneath stuff. Unlike the 49ers wide receivers, Tee Higgins, Ja’Marr Chase, and Tyler Boyd aren’t “YAC” receivers. The Rams should be able to limit damage in the passing game.
Matchup to Watch: Derion Kendrick vs. Tee Higgins
There have been a few times this season where Kendrick has gotten beat vertically or bit on a double move. This is one of the best wide receiver groups that the Rams will go against this season. Don’t be surprised if Higgins tries to get Kendrick to bite on a slant-go or similar style route. The second-year corner is going to be tested.
Coming into the season, like many, I had this game as a loss for the Rams. The Bengals looked like one of the best teams in the NFL and trying to capitalize on the final year of their “current” window. Now, they sit at 0-2 and Burrow is dealing with a calf injury that is heavily impacting the way that he’s able to play.
The Bengals defense has talent, but the Rams will have an opportunity to wear them out on the ground with long drives like they did against the Seahawks. The only thing throwing a wrench into this game is that Cincinnati is 0-2 and will be playing for their season. I still think that the Rams can pull out a close game.
Prediction: Rams 23, Bengals 17