Breaking down how the Rams (1-1) and the Cincinnati Bengals (0-2) match up heading into their game at 5:15 p.m. PDT on Monday at Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati. The game will be shown on Channel 13 in the Los Angeles area, nationally on ESPN, ESPN2 and streamed on NFL+.
When Rams have the ball
Matthew Stafford faces the Bengals for the first time since Super Bowl LVI, and the Rams could use a big performance from the 15th-year pro. Stafford passed for a touchdown but had two passes intercepted in a 30-23 defeat by the San Francisco 49ers. He has been sacked only once.
Rookie Puka Nacua looks to continue his record-setting pace. Nacua has a league-leading 25 receptions, the most by a rookie receiver in his first two games in NFL history. Nacua was listed as questionable because of an oblique injury, but he is expected to start alongside Tutu Atwell and Van Jefferson.
With Cam Akers traded to the Minnesota Vikings, second-year pro Kyren Williams is the undisputed starter at running back. Ronnie Rivers and Royce Freeman are expected to back up Williams, who scored two touchdowns in each of the first two games.
Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo oversees a unit that features ends Sam Hubbard and Trey Hendrickson and middle linebacker Germaine Pratt. The secondary includes cornerback Chidobe Awuzie and former Rams safety Nick Scott.
When Bengals have the ball
Quarterback Joe Burrow, who signed a $275-million extension before the season, has been hindered by a calf injury. Burrow is listed as questionable, and coach Zac Taylor has said it could come down to a game-time decision. Backup Jake Browning has played only four NFL snaps and has one passing attempt.
The Bengals last week signed quarterbacks Reid Sinnett and AJ McCarron to the practice squad. Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd can be among the NFL’s most dynamic trio of receivers. But look for the Bengals to rely on running back Joe Mixon.
The Rams defense is in search of its first turnover. Star defensive lineman Aaron Donald did not make a tackle in the defeat by the 49ers, the first time since 2020 that the three-time NFL defensive player of the year was shut out.
Rookie edge rusher Byron Young has 1½ sacks for a unit that has played better than most pundits expected. Defensive coordinator Raheem Morris has seen a young secondary play fairly well, but the Rams’ young front must produce more pressure to create interceptions and fumbles.
When they kick
It should be entertaining when the Rams punt. Rookie Ethan Evans has punted only three times — one traveled 72 yards — and he is averaging 51 yards per kick. Bengals rookie Charlie Jones returned a punt 81 yards for a touchdown in the Bengals’ 27-24 defeat by the Baltimore Ravens.
By the numbers
Gary Klein’s prediction
The Rams would be hard-pressed to win if Burrow was physically sound and playing well. But if he remains hindered or sits out, the Rams will escape with a victory.
RAMS 23, BENGALS 20
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.