How the Bengals could help the LA Rams playoff push this week

Los Angeles Rams v Cincinnati Bengals, Sean Mcvay
Los Angeles Rams v Cincinnati Bengals, Sean Mcvay / Cooper Neill/GettyImages

The LA Rams are not quite at .500 at the moment, but the team has had a burst of success since their BYE in Week 10. So far, the Rams are 3-1 after their break, and hope to improve on that record this week. But the Rams strolled through the season so far, and no amount of sprinting at the end of the season will lower the drawbridge and let the Rams enter the castle of the NFL Playoffs.

As the eighth seeded team in a competition that gives the top seven teams from each NFL conference admission, the Rams find themselves on the outside looking in. In other words, the Rams need help to get into the playoffs.

Some will scoff at the idea, as though help in any form in the NFL at this point of the season is purely based in some form of philanthropic intent. That, my friends, is most certainly not the case this week.

Bengals are fighting for their own playoff hopes

The Cincinnati Bengals (7-6) are clinging to their own fading NFL playoff dreams as they host the Minnesota Vikings (7-6) in a game that will boost the chances of one team, and severely cripple the chances of the other team. Curiously, the Bengals, despite holding an identical record as the Vikings, are only the 10th seeded AFC team, as the Bengals are only 3-6 in conference games. The VIkings are the sixth seeded team in the NFC as the only team with a 7-6 record.

But if the Vikings lose, that opens the door for five NFC teams to improve their position in the NFC playoff rankings. The question is, can the Bengals pull off a win in Week 15? I believe that they do.

Neither the Vikings QB Kirk Cousins nor Bengals QB Joe Burrow will see action in this one, as both starting quarterbacks are on IR on their respective teams. This is a battle of backups, in which Bengals backup QB Jake Browning will face either Vikings backup QB Nick Mullens or Josh Dobbs. Pre-game reports indicate that the Vikings are likely to go with Mullens this week, as Dobbs struggled in Week 14.

Why the Bengals are favored to win this one

Historically, the VIkings have been the better team on both sides of the football. But this is late in the season, and the two teams are powered by their new quarterbacks. Right now, I believe that will proved to be a deciding factor in this one.

If the Vikings do go with QB Nick Mullens, they are leaning on a veteran quarterback who has historically depended on a strong rushing attack to boost his passing effectiveness. I don't know that the Vikings have that type of ground assault that can shoulder some of the burden of the offense this week. That being said, the Bengals defense is far more effective when they can focus on one offensive dimension. That appears to be what the Vikings offense will do this week.

Meanwhile, Bengals backup Jake Browning has been incredibly effective in two games for the Bengals so far. He has powered the Bengals past the Jacksonville Jaguars (8-5) and the Indianapolis Colts (7-6) already and shows no signs of letting up this week. Browning is actually a solid NFL quarterback, and one the Rams nearly faced earlier this season.

While the 2024 NFL Draft appears to be loaded with young QB help for NFL teams, Browning could be a viable option. He is projected to become a free agent in 2024, and his ability to start for an NFL team right out of the gates is certainly a very attractive aspect of his game.

If the Bengals win, the Rams are one step closer to the NFL playoffs. Of course, the LA Rams have to do the heavy lifting by winning games. But the Rams will need help along the way. This week, that help can come in the form of the Cincinnati Bengals.