First, as of this writing, the biggest mystery of all has a tentative solution — Joe Burrow will suit up for the game.
Burrow, dealing with the calf injury he re-aggravated last week, had a morning workout that went well and he got the green light to at least suit up and give it a try against the Rams. Keep in mind that this could change before kickoff depending on how warmups go, but Burrow will get the start with Jake Browning as the backup.
What that actually means is tough to say though because a dialed-back offense that kept it simple to protect Burrow over the first two weeks was downright bad. If it can’t expand and get Ja’Marr Chase involved in the ways he’d like, it’s hard to think Monday looks much different than the first two games.
It’s no easy task — yet hope remains.
The visiting Rams are 1-1 with 35-year-old Matthew Stafford not as dynamic a threat on the ground and via play extension as say, Deshaun Watson or Lamar Jackson. The Rams offensive line hasn’t exactly been stellar this year either, so there’s an opening for Lou Anarumo’s defense to dictate the pace of this game, especially with Rams star Cooper Kupp missing from the lineup. Stafford threw two picks last week on 55 attempts with a 5.6 average.
Similarly, the Rams don’t boast an elite edge rusher like each of Cincinnati’s last two opponents. If the gameplan can dictate doubles or more at Donald and get the ball out fast, the likes of Chase could see big YAC chances against an exploitable-looking secondary.
The Rams are probably better than most would have given them credit for as they deal with the fallout of going all-in to win a Super Bowl, but the Bengals can be a better team if Burrow can function and the coaching staff — yet again — shakes free of an early-season rut.
It’s Week 3, the Bengals are 0-2, it’s at home on primetime and another Ring of Honor event a week removed from the offense starting to put it together. If there’s ever a week for a sense of desperation in front of a huge crowd to align nicely with the offense and defense getting back to form, it’s now. Even then, it won’t be easy, but this is the type of game Burrow and Co. have won in recent years to get right.
Prediction: Bengals 23, Rams 20