CINCINNATI, OH - DECEMBER 11: Cedric Benson#32 of the Cincinnati Bengals runs with the ball during the NFL game against Houston Texans at Paul Brown Stadium on December 11, 2011 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Now that the Bengals are in the home stretch of the 2011 season, it's obvious (it's been obvious for a long time) that the strength of the team is their defense. The defense is ranked seventh in the league and has been the major reason that the Bengals have a shot at heading to the playoffs, that is if they win out, of course.
The offense doesn't have the top-10 ranking that the defense does, but they've done enough to have a winning record at this point in the season. The team's 20th-ranked offense comes from the 19th-ranked rushing defense and the 19th-ranked passing offense.
The Rams haven't been able to do much on offense this year (they're ranked 30th overall on offense) and their 25th-ranked defense would suggest that they aren't very good at anything this year, but that's not the case -- the Rams have the league's eighth-ranked passing defense. The reason that their defense has such a low ranking is because they give up an average of 156.8 rushing yards per game, the worst in the league.
This is something the Bengals need to take advantage of.
Cedric Benson has been underwhelming at times this season. For instance, he ran for over 90 yards against the Texans in the first half of the Bengals' Week 14 game, but in the second half, he ran for -1 yards. That doesn't mean it's all his fault, though. Bobbie Williams' injury didn't help and the Texans adjusted their game plan to stop him in the second half.
Right now the Bengals running game is one of the worst when it comes to yards per carry. The Bengals, using mostly Benson and Bernard Scott to run, average only 3.9 yards per carry, which is 28th in the NFL. The Rams have given up an average of five yards per carry so far this season. If Benson and Scott are only able to pick up their usual 3.9, the Bengals could have a tough time passing on the Rams, especially playing in St. Louis. However, if Benson can run the way he did against the Texans in the first half, especially against the Rams' league-worst run defense, the Bengals could ride him all the way to a Week 15 victory.
More so than most games so far this season, I would say that a Bengals' victory hinges on whether or not the Bengals can get the run game going. In the past they've been able to rely on Andy Dalton and A.J. Green's rookie magic but against the eighth-tanked pass defense on the road, they may have trouble moving the ball through the air. The offense will need Benson and Scott to take advantage of the league's worst run defense.
If you've got Benson on your fantasy team this week, start him. Hopefully it pays off for both you and the Bengals.