GLENDALE, AZ - NOVEMBER 06: Runningback Steven Jackson #39 of the St. Louis Rams rushes the football against Rashad Johnson #49 of the Arizona Cardinals during the NFL game at the University of Phoenix Stadium on November 6, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
After losing to the Texans, and more importantly losing four of the last five games, the Cincinnati Bengals playoff hopes are hanging by a thread. If they lose one more game in the next three weeks, their season will end after Week 17. If they can win out, though, they have a chance at extending their season into the playoffs.
Their season-ending playoff push begins on Sunday in St. Louis. Here are five keys to a Bengals victory over the Rams, numbers five through three.
|No. 5: Stop Steven Jackson|
The Rams are in trouble on offense. They have few big threats in the receiving corps and even if they did, they'll likely be starting Kellen Clemens at quarterback as Sam Bradford and A.J. Feeley are both injured. The only real offensive threat right now is running back Steven Jackson.
Jackson is a beast of a running back and easily one of the best in the league. If he had landed on a better team than the Rams he could lead an offense to the playoffs by himself, but that's not the case. If the Bengals can stop Jackson from running all over him and force the ball into Clemens' hands, the Bengals should be able to win on Sunday.
|No. 4: Pressure Clemens All Day Long|
There's a reason that Clemens has been with more than one team this season and that reason isn't because he is a really good quarterback. If any defense allows an opposing quarterback to sit in the pocket untouched long enough to find an open receiver, they'll lose. Only the best quarterbacks can stand in the pocket while being pressured and still lead an offense to victory.
If the Bengals front four can pressure Clemens all day long, the Rams shouldn't have much of a chance. They have given up the most sacks in the NFL and Carlos Dunlap, the Bengals' best pass rusher seems like he'll return to action this week.
Guys like Dunlap, Geno Atkins and Michael Johnson should have fun on Sunday.
|No. 3: Protect Dalton|
Even though the Rams have one of the league's lower ranked defenses, they have been one of the better teams at getting to the quarterback. They have racked up 35 sacks so far this season and that's largely thanks to Chris Long's 12 sacks. Long's status is questionable on Sunday so it's currently unclear as to whether or not he'll play but if he does, the Bengals offensive line, especially right tackle Anthony Collins, will need to be on top of their game.
If Collins can stop Long and the rest of the offensive line can form a clean pocket for Dalton to operate in, the Bengals should be just fine on Sunday.