Our VP of Football and Research, Matt Manocherian, talked Bengals earlier this week with Mo Egger of ESPN Radio Cincinnati.
You can listen to the full interview here. Here are a few of Matt’s thoughts.
How are the Bengals going to block the Rams?
I would actually push back on the notion that the Bengals are going to have to do that. The Bengals lead the league in short dropbacks.
Maybe the Bengals are going to keep going with their whole strategy of ‘We don’t need to protect Joe Burrow.’ We just need to let our guys get into routes and let Burrow do his thing. They’ve ridden it this far without blocking anybody all that well.
The Rams want to figure out ways to keep Joe Burrow holding onto the football. It was one of the things the Bengals did so well against the Chiefs, making Mahomes hang onto the football. Eventually he got impatient.
You can bet the Rams are going to try some different window dressing with two weeks to prepare to confuse Burrow, to get him to hang onto the ball so that Aaron Donald and his friends on the defensive line can get to him and get home.
How do the Bengals match up with Cooper Kupp and the other Rams receivers?
Cooper Kupp is as precise a route runner as there is in the NFL. The Bengals are going to try to come out with what they do well, play a lot of man coverage and hope they can play better guy-on-guy than the Rams can.
It could be a long day when it comes to Cooper Kupp. But I think what the Rams will lament is not having Robert Woods. Woods did a lot of what allowed them to tie their run game and their pass game so well together with play action.
Without him in the lineup, I think you’ll see the Bengals dropping 8 guys back with a lot of man coverage and two-high safeties over the top, trying to do everything they can to make things look different. It’s a lot easier to guard Cooper Kupp if you don’t have to be worrying about guarding him deep. And they’ll be daring the Rams to run the ball.
The Rams are going to be looking to get 5 or 6 yards on their outside zone plays and force the Bengals to drop somebody down so that they don’t have that extra player to defend Kupp over the top.
Is there an area where the Bengals can expose the Rams?
I think these are comparable teams at passing and catching the ball. And I think the Rams block better. But I think that in the running game, the Bengals have an edge. If Cincinnati can do just enough on the ground to complement things, so that it opens things up for their wide receivers, that would be the path to victory.
If the Rams are going to play light boxes and dare you to run the ball, the thing the Bengals can do is punish you for playing that way.
The Bengals ranked 15th in the regular season in Rushing Points Earned Per Play. The Rams ranked 28th.