Rams (1-1) at Bengals (0-2)
Spread: Bengals -2
Weather: No current concerns
Joe Burrow’s injury uncertainty has led to wild line movement in this contest. The spread for this matchup opened as Bengals -6.5 at certain books before quickly dipping to Bengals -3.5. The line then moved down to Bengals -1.5 before moving back up to Bengals -3. Late Sunday night, it has settled between Bengals -2 and Bengals -2.5.
Despite all of the mid-to-late-week line movements, the total for this contest has remained adjacent to 43.5 points.
Bengals Offense vs. Rams Defense
Cincinnati’s offense has struggled this season, dropping its first two games to the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens. The Los Angeles Rams’ defense is a more beatable obstacle, but Burrow is a game-time decision. The potential drop from Burrow to Jake Browning is monumental.
Regardless of which Cincinnati Bengals’ quarterback starts this game, the Rams have allowed the ninth-most rushing yards to running backs. Through two games, Joe Mixon has 26 of Cincinnati’s 30 running back carries.
The Rams’ pass defense has been better than expected through two games and now draws an underachieving Bengals team. Tee Higgins leads Bengals wide receivers with 89 receiving yards. In target share, Higgins (29 percent) currently leads Ja’Marr Chase (24.6 percent) and Tyler Boyd (15.9 percent). If Burrow can play without significant limitation, better days are ahead for this passing attack.
Rams Offense vs. Bengals Defense
Matthew Stafford is currently third in the league in passing yards. Through the first two weeks, you could argue that he’s been the player with the biggest impact in the league. He’s elevated an offense filled with unproven players while Cooper Kupp is sidelined.
Rookie WR Puka Nacua leads the league in targets (35), receptions (25) and target share (39.3 percent), and he’s second in receiving yards (266). Tutu Atwell is 11th in the league in receptions (11) and eighth in receiving yards (196). Neither Rams receiver has a touchdown this season, but they’ve both blown expectations out of the water. TE Tyler Higbee has six receptions on 10 targets for 61 receiving yards.
The Bengals have allowed the fifth-most rushing yards to running backs this season. Kyren Williams has 104 rushing yards on 29 carries through the first two games. Cam Akers was the only other Rams running back with a carry this year, but he was traded to the Minnesota Vikings last week.
What You’re Betting On
This game boils down to Burrow’s availability. If Burrow plays with only minor limitations, it’s only a matter of time before Cincinnati’s offense regresses to their mean. If you’re betting on the Bengals, you’re betting on Burrow’s offense in a borderline must-win game. If Browning plays, you need a clean game that Lou Anarumo’s defense largely carries. The Bengals do not have a talent-rich defense, but Anarumo has gotten the most out of this group for years. If Browning plays, Cincinnati has a very narrow path to victory Monday night.
There are three major positives for Rams bettors in this matchup. First, Stafford is a potential Hall-of-Fame quarterback who has been tremendous through the first two games. Next is Aaron Donald, who draws an uncommon opponent with a questionable interior offensive line. Third, Los Angeles is either getting an injured Burrow or Browning. This game has some shootout potential with Burrow. If Browning starts, he’s 27 and threw his first NFL pass last week.
Score Prediction with Burrow: Bengals 27, Rams 24
Score Prediction without Burrow: Rams 24, Bengals 13
Ryan’s Recent Betting Record
ATS 2021: 49-31
ATS 2022: 48-32
ATS 2023: 4-6
Props 2022: 60-40
Props 2023: 4-2
Ryan Reynolds is the associate director of fantasy and betting at The 33rd Team. He has been covering NFL betting markets for five years. Follow Ryan @RyanReynoldsNFL on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.