Overview: Two touchdowns favor the Los Angeles Rams in this game, and they SHOULD win. The Cincinnati Bengals are winless, and will once again be missing their best player, wide receiver A.J. Green, arguably the only truly elite player on their roster (you could argue for running back Joe Mixon). They will also be missing cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick and defensive lineman Car Lawson. The Rams also have some injuries--running back Malcolm Brown and linebacker Clay Matthews are out. Cornerback Troy Hill listed as questionable, but most reports seem to indicate he will play.
Overall the Bengals injury list maybe a little worse since Green is such a good player on a team that not loaded with talent.
However, there are still areas of concern, Bengals coach Zac Taylor spent two years on the Rams' coaching staff. That includes time last season as the Rams quarterback coach, so he probably has a pretty good idea of how to disrupt Rams quarterback Jared Goff. The Bengals have at times shown flashes of being a good team, including an opening-day one-point loss at Seattle in a game they probably should have lost. The Bengals may not be talented, but they are not the Miami Dolphins, and in the NFL, anybody (except maybe the Dolphins) can beat anybody on any given Sunday.
Finally, the Rams are pretty much in must-win mode at this point. If they lose this game, they would still have a mathematical chance at the playoffs, but not much more.
Bengals Offense vs. Rams Defense: The Bengals seem likely to be missing a pair of offensive linemen in this game, including left tackle Andre Smith as well as their right-guard. Tackle Cordy Glenn, penciled in as a starter when the season opened, is suspended and did not even make the trip to London. Too much talent is missing from a depleted O-line to start with, and that could propose a problem. With A.J. Green out, expect a heavy dose of ''ground and pound" from the Bengals offense. Then again, we also might not, considering the Bengals are ranked dead last in the NFL in rushing yards, averaging a paltry 53 yards per game. That is just awful, and a big reason why the Bengals come in at 0-7.
Experts ranked the Bengals O-line last in run blocking. So anything can happen, but we have to think the Bengals will try to score points through the air
Have to think Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald is licking his chops thinking about this game, and there have been more than a few predictions that Donald may go off in this game. A.D. typically sees double and even triple teams, but the Rams do have enough talent along the defensive front to make the Bengals pay if they employ that strategy. Outside linebacker Dante Fowler had a big game last week against the Falcons, notching three sacks. He has five on the year and is starting to look like the first-round draft choice that the Jaguars made him a few years back. Fowler will likely face off against Cincy tackle Bobby Hart, who is not having a great year. The problem for the Bengals is that assuming they load up against Donald, they may not have much available help for Hart against Fowler, without being vulnerable to Ram's blitzes, something defensive coordinator Wade Phillips likes to dial-up (more on that in a moment).
On the other side, Clay Matthews remains out (he may be back after next week's bye) but Samson Ebukam, who could start for many NFL teams. Phillips is also not afraid to bring people like inside linebacker Cory Littleton and safety Taylor Rapp on the blitz, so it may be hard for Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton to get too comfortable. He does have some decent targets, though, even with Green out. Wide receiver John Ross may be the fastest NFL player not named Tyreek Hill. He only has 328 yards receiving through 7 games, but you can never ignore that kind of speed. Tyler Boyd leads the team with 471 yards, although Boyd has been sort of quiet the last couple of games. He will likely see a lot of Rams corner Jalen Ramsey in this game. Given their injuries on the O-line, the Bengals might go to a short passing game, possibly featuring running back Joe Mixon. Mixon is not having a great year, is dangerous in the open field, and the Rams need to contain him.
Football games are won on the field and not on paper, but on paper, the Rams certainly have the edge here. The x-factor might be Taylor, who probably learned a few things from Rams Head Coach Sean McVay. Even so, we have to check this box for Los Angeles.
Rams Offense vs. Bengals Defense: The Bengals might not be very good, but they do have some talent on the defensive line, even though they have only notched nine sacks this season. Defensive tackle Geno Atkins is a monster, and he will try to take advantage of rookie guard David Edwards in only his second start. Edwards, who played tackle in college at Wisconsin, won raves from the Rams coaches and players last week for his play against Atlanta, but he faces a huge test this week. Ends Carlos Dunlap and Sam Hubbard are decent players as well, and the Rams O-line has not been great this season. However, the loss of starting defensive end Carl Lawson is terrible news for Cincinnati.
IF the Bengals can win this battle, they can win this game. The Rams line was better last week against the Falcons, and they need to continue that trend.
The Rams will be without running back Malcolm Brown. Todd Gurley has not been himself so far this season, and at this point, it is an open question as to whether he will ever be the back we have seen the past few seasons. If he is going to return to form, this might be the week to do it. In fairness, his drop in production has not all been his fault. The Rams line has not done an outstanding job of opening holes, and even in last week's big win against the Falcons, they were not significant in that area.
We might look at rookie running back Darrell Henderson's season stats and not be overly impressed, but if we have seen the last few games, we know he has potential. Outside of a key muffed lateral in the 49er game, he is playing better than his numbers. He is a big-play threat waiting to break loose, both as a runner and receiver. Will this be the game?
The Rams have been a passing team all season, and tight end Gerald Everett has been emerging as a weapon the last few games, His battle against Bengals safety Jessie Bates should favor the Rams. The fact that the Bengals are missing cornerbacks Dre Kirkpatrick and Marquez Dennard against the Rams outstanding receiving trio of Brandin Cooks, Cooper Kupp, and Robert Woods does not bode well for the Bengals.
As we mentioned earlier, Bengals coach Zac Taylor is very familiar with this offense, both in terms of personnel and scheme. The other place the Bengals may have a chance to make headway is in the trenches. If Cincinnati can make the most of those factors, an upset is possible. If they cannot..this could get ugly.
Special teams: Even though the Rams special teams have not been everything we might have hoped for so far, they were better last week against the Falcons. We saw Johnny Hekker complete a key pass on a fake punt, among other hopeful signs. The Bengals special teams are not bad, but we will still check this box for the Rams.
Prediction: As we said above, there are reasons for concern in this game. The familiarity of Bengals coach Zac Taylor, the matchup of rookie Rams guard David Edwards versus Bengals DT Geno Atkins, and the possibility of overlooking the winless Bengals going into a bye week are all concerns. However, as the debacle versus Tampa Bay a few weeks ago proved, we cannot take anybody lightly. There are also the inevitable distractions faced when playing a "home' game in London. Nevertheless, the Rams are a better team in "must-win" mode.
Rams 35 Bengals 23