The Cincinnati Bengals are 0-2 for the second year in a row. But if the 2022 Bengals taught us anything, it’s that it doesn’t matter how you start. It’s how you finish.
Here are a few matchups that could decide who’s on top when the final seconds tick off the board in the fourth quarter Monday night.
Bengals interior offensive line vs. Aaron Donald
The last time the Bengals faced off against Donald, it was in Super Bowl LVI, and Donald made the final defensive play of the game, acting as the hammer that drove the final nail in Cincinnati’s coffin. Donald will go down as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, defensive players of all time, and he’ll be a threat to sack Joe Burrow or Jake Browning from any spot on the defensive line. Donald will be lined up between the guards more often than not.
It would be nice for the Bengals to not have to keep potential receiving threats in the backfield to help handle Donald.
Bengals secondary vs. Puka Nacua
The Rams are without star wide receiver Cooper Kupp, who was placed on IR before the start of the season. It hasn’t mattered much, though. Stafford has found a new favorite target in Nacua, a fifth-round rookie out of BYU. Nacua has racked up 25 catches for 266 yards in the first two games of his career. Not a bad start.
The Bengals' secondary has a chance to bounce back from a rough week.
Bengals pass rush vs. Rams offensive line
Last week the Rams' offensive line only gave up one sack, but they allowed a whopping 26 pressures in their loss against the San Francisco 49ers. Against the Ravens, the Bengals weren’t able to register a single sack against Lamar Jackson and registered only eight hurries. They can’t get much worse than that, and this will be a good chance to get back on track. Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford isn’t mobile, which means Lou Anarumo can let the defense pin its ears back.
Zac Taylor vs. Zac Taylor
Here’s the deal, if the Bengals are without Joe Burrow on Monday night, they just won’t be the same team. That doesn’t mean they have to write the game off as a loss, though. Browning isn’t anything like Burrow, but he is an NFL quarterback, and he has the help of a Pro Bowl running back behind him and the best trio of wide receivers in the NFL. He’ll also be behind an offensive line that has given up only three sacks so far this season.
There is no reason Taylor can’t make an offensive game plan that plays to that offense and still be able to put points on the board.