St. Louis Rams vs. Cincinnati Bengals: Full St. Louis Game Preview

Steven Gerwel@Steve_GerFeatured Columnist IVNovember 26, 2015

St. Louis Rams vs. Cincinnati Bengals: Full St. Louis Game Preview

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    The St. Louis Rams (4-6) will travel to Ohio to take on the Cincinnati Bengals (8-2). Given the Bengals’ 4-1 home record this season, it’s a seemingly impossible hurdle for St. Louis to conquer.

    The Rams are coming off their two most miserable losses of the year—a 37-13 loss to Chicago along with a 16-13 loss in Baltimore—and are stuck in a three-game losing streak. The outlook for the season is beyond grim, so the thought of St. Louis somehow summoning a burst of enthusiasm to overcome the Bengals seems far-fetched at best.

    Then again, that’s the exact same feeling we had in Week 11 of last season. The Rams were coming off a 31-14 loss to Arizona and had dropped four of their last six games. Somehow, the Rams managed to snap out of it and smoke the red-hot Denver Broncos 22-7.

    Anything can happen.

    The Bengals have now lost two straight—Cincinnati’s only two losses of the year—and suddenly seem mortal. However, given the recent losses, you can count on the team showing up Sunday with an edge.

    The game will kick off at noon and will air on Fox for local broadcasting. For more on the matchup, including the latest headlines, analysis and more, read on.

News and Notes

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    Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

    Rams WR Stedman Bailey in Critical Condition Following Gunshot to the Head

    Police reported that St. Louis wide receiver Stedman Bailey was shot in his vehicle while visiting the Miami area, per CNN

    Bailey was in the car with three other passengers—including two minors—when shots were fired into the car from another vehicle. The shooting occurred around 8:45 p.m. ET. Bailey was struck twice in the head but the injuries are thought to be non-life-threatening.

    The NFL handed Bailey a four-game suspension on November 9, per NFL.com. It’s unclear if the suspension is what allowed him to travel on a Tuesday during the season, or if Tuesday was simply an off-day for the players. Howard Balzer of the Sports Xchange reported Bailey was allowed on Rams Park premises but was not permitted to participate in practice.

    This will surely be on the minds on Rams players throughout the week and in the locker room this Sunday.

    Rams players, fans and staff members are hoping for a speedy and safe recovery.

    Case Keenum Back to Practice

    Rams quarterback Case Keenum took a big shot during St. Louis final offensive drive against Baltimore. Head coach Jeff Fisher and the Rams have taken much heat this week for not pulling Keenum immediately. 

    Fortunately, Keenum made it out of the game with no additional head trauma. Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com reports that Keenum is back on the practice field, but he's still limited as the Rams keep an eye on his health. 

    It's still unclear if Keenum will be cleared by Sunday, but Nick Foles will be ready if not. If Keenum is showing any concussion-related symptoms, the Rams must show caution and go with Foles. 

Latest Injury News

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    Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

    QB Case Keenum (Concussion)

    As mentioned in the previous slide, Keenum has been limited at practice this week but has still participated.

    In reality, it could be a game-time decision. The Rams surely want to provide Keenum with a shot at redemption after last week's disaster performance, but the team isn't taking any chances either. If any concussion symptoms are present, he'll sit out. 

    DE Robert Quinn (Hip)

    According to Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch via Twitter, Rams defensive end Robert Quinn missed Wednesday's practice with a hip injury. 

    Quinn was absent in last week's loss against Baltimore and has already missed two games this season. If the Rams are without the two-time Pro Bowler this Sunday, it will be a major loss. 

    With only five sacks and 21 tackles in eight games, Quinn has not been himself this season. He's been banged-up and doesn't appear to be playing at full speed. The best thing for Quinn and the franchise's future is to give him ample recovery time and ensure he's 100 percent before making a return. 

    Other Key Injuries

    • CB Trumaine Johnson (Thigh): Did Not Participate in Practice
    • T Rob Havenstein (Calf): Did Not Participate in Practice
    • G Andrew Donnal (Knee): Did Not Participate in Practice

    All injuries verified via the NFL.com injury report.

Top Matchups

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    Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

    Janoris Jenkins vs. A.J. Green

    Rams cornerback Janoris Jenkins has been excellent at shutting down the opponent’s No. 1 wide receiver, but this week will be particularly challenging.

    Bengals wideout A.J. Green is on his way to another Pro Bowl campaign. He has 59 catches for 848 yards and four touchdowns this season. At 6’4”, he towers over the 5’10” Jenkins and has the tools to win every downfield jump ball.

    However, Jenkins has bested receivers all season long. He manages to utilize his quick hips and ball skills to blanket bigger receivers. He continues to be one of the more consistent and shutdown corners of the 2015 season.

    The matchup between Green and Jenkins will be exciting to watch.

    Michael Johnson vs. Greg Robinson

    One of the key matchups for the Rams on offense will be the showdown between left tackle Greg Robinson and Cincinnati right end Michael Johnson.

    Johnson is an accomplished pass-rusher and has been a solid presence for the Bengals this season. He has 27 tackles, three sacks and two forced fumbles. Johnson is hardly the Bengals’ most intimidating weapon up front, but he’ll be a major concern for St. Louis this week, as he’s set to line up across from the struggling Robinson.

    If you haven’t noticed, Robinson’s play has been disastrous in recent weeks. He allowed a big hit on Keenum that caused a fumble during the final drive against Baltimore. He’s also been flagged numerous times the past two weeks for holding penalties.

    There’s no nice way to put it. Robinson, 2014's No. 2 overall draft pick, has been a complete bust so far. He has been absolutely dreadful on the field. If he doesn’t step up against Johnson, the Rams might run out of quarterbacks in this upcoming game.

Matchup X-Factors

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    Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

    Can Keenum Up His Game? 

    When it was announced that Keenum would take over for Foles as the starting quarterback, few people expected Keenum to emerge as the team’s quarterback savior. The common hope was that Keenum would provide a slight spark on offense and be a good game manager.

    Still, even though Keenum did not meet those expectations in his first start, no one really expected that he’d be as bad as he was against Baltimore.

    Keenum threw a long touchdown to Lance Kendricks—Kendricks was ridiculously wide-open, and even Johnny Hekker could have made that throw—but the rest of his game was abysmal. He completed just 46.2 percent of his passes for a laughable 136 yards. Many of his throws were way off course, and he couldn’t hit a receiver all day.

    This was a bit of a surprise, because Keenum was very solid during his time with the Houston Texans. At the very least, he wasn’t a total disaster in Houston, as he was last Sunday. The Rams need to see more of that old Keenum in Cincinnati. It’s simply a matter of him settling down, finding comfort with the receivers and executing.

    If he can up his game, the Rams will be in a much-better position than they were a week ago.

    Will the Rams Create Opportunities for Todd Gurley? 

    Todd Gurley was held to 66 yards on 25 attempts last week in Baltimore. Play after play, Gurley ran into a brick wall. He earned every single yard in that game and received virtually zero help up front.

    This is completely ridiculous. The Rams were lucky enough to acquire a rare and exciting offensive talent with limitless potential. If the Rams continue to send him into a wall of defenders on every play, he’ll wear down quicker than Steven Jackson, and St. Louis will be responsible for ruining another great running back’s career.

    The issue is entirely on the offensive line. If the unit can band together and open a monster lane just three or four times per game, Gurley will capitalize, and it’ll make all the difference. All he needs is one play with a gaping hole, and he’s gone.

    There’s no excuse for the absolute lack of support Gurley has received on offense. If the Rams want a shot at taking down the Bengals, that must change.

Prediction: Bengals 27, Rams 10

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    There's no good reason why St. Louis should win this game. 

    The Bengals own the 13th-ranked rushing defense (100.4 yards per game)—a defense that's plenty good enough to conquer St. Louis' putrid offensive line and smother Gurley. Not to mention, Cincinnati's 28 sacks ties for eighth-best in the NFL, so Keenum will have his hands full in the pocket. 

    On defense, St. Louis will play a solid game as usual. Still, with zero offensive support, the Bengals will eventually break free for one or two big scoring plays, and that's all it'll take to outscore the Rams. 

    It's the same story every week. It's doubtful the Rams will deviate from the usual script this time around. 

    Things could get ugly for the Rams in Cincy.

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