It’s been a little under two years since the Los Angeles Rams captured Super Bowl LVI in a thrilling come-from-behind victory against the Cincinnati Bengals, and the two teams meet again on Monday Night Football for Week 3.
The Rams have been one of the surprises of the early part of the 2023 season as they upset the Seattle Seahawks on the road and returned home to play the San Francisco 49ers in a competitive game. On the flip side, it’s been a tough start for the Bengals as they were embarrassed by the Cleveland Browns and then lost a close one to the Baltimore Ravens.
At 0-2, Cincinnati will be playing for much more than a win at home and Los Angeles will need to be prepared to take a punch from a team that could look desperate right from kick off.
Rams Offense vs. Bengals Defense
With Cam Akers traded to the Minnesota Vikings, the backfield belongs to Kyren Williams, who has looked the part of a workhorse running back. In Week 2, Williams added two more touchdowns and even drew 10 targets from Matthew Stafford, so he should be a large part of the game plan.
Meanwhile, Puka Nacua has turned into Stafford’s favorite target and he should be able to find soft spots in the Bengals’ zone defense. Cincinnati remains a solid defensive unit up front, but Los Angeles’ offensive line has done a great job keeping Stafford clean in the pocket.
Rams Defense vs. Bengals Offense
The largest question of the matchup is the status of Joe Burrow as he re-aggravated his calf in the loss to the Ravens. Burrow was forced to miss multiple weeks of training camp due to the injury and could be held out as a precaution. Burrow is expected to be a game-time decision and if he is unable to go, Jake Browning would be his replacement and that could be open season for what’s been a lackluster Los Angeles pass rush.
Still, the Bengals do have plenty of offensive weapons in Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Joe Mixon so they’ll need to be accounted for even if Browning ends up under center.
Keys to Victory
1. Pound the run game
So far, Cincinnati has been one of the worst run defenses in the league this season which means that Sean McVay should be dialing up plays for Williams. McVay has incorporated more downhill, up the middle runs this year and that could be a recipe for success.
2. Withstand the first punch
As mentioned earlier, the Bengals will be highly motivated to get off to a good start on primetime and the Rams will need to be prepared to weather the initial storm.