589 days from Super Bowl LVI to Monday Night Football in Week 3.
Does it feel like that long ago?
I guess we all aged a several years last season, but still. The memories are so fresh.
The MVP of that game won't play Monday, but most of the leading characters are still in place.
Maybe there's an element of revenge at play from Cincinnati's standpoint, but I would imagine their more urgent concern is avoiding falling to 0-3. And for the Los Angeles Rams, Monday could be the next step toward their future.
Flex On 'Em
Not that its worth losing sleep over, but as it stands, the Rams will only play under the lights twice this season – Monday and then versus the New Orleans Saints on Thursday Night Football in December.
(And it didn't go unnoticed that Rams-Bengals was assigned to ESPN, not ABC.)
It's a reminder of the low bar that was set for this group, and how close they are to leaping over it.
Why not win this one and move one step closer to a Sunday Night Football flex?
This week, there were several helpful illustrations of just how productive Matthew Stafford and the Rams offense has been.
Stafford came into Week 3 top seven in the league in QBR, EPA, and Pro Football Focus grading. Playing like this, he gives the Rams a chance to beat any team, any day, anywhere.
After watching San Francisco fumble three times and not pay the price at SoFi Stadium, now the Rams just need that oblong, pointed object to bounce their way a bit.
We're anxiously awaiting the defense's first takeaway of 2023. And I don't mind red zone rushing touchdowns – in fact they're immensely encouraging – but the first explosive scoring play to a receiver or tight end would be welcome on Monday, too.
According to NFL Research, the 2023 Rams are the fourth team since at least 1950 to have 800 total yards and 50 points scored with zero turnovers forced on defense through two games. For what it's worth (nada), two of the previous three won the Super Bowl that season.
Good to Great
As heartening as the first two efforts have been, what's even more promising is how easy it is to pick out categories the Rams can clean up.
From a more efficient rushing attack to puncturing pockets to eliminating drops, so much is seemingly within their control.
We ran down a bunch of the areas where they've outperformed, as well as some things they can improve upon on the most recent Between the Horns.
But in broad strokes, 15 more competitive efforts like the first two and this team is going to be just fine.
Did I Catch a Niner in There?
Never mind the two interceptions versus San Francisco; one clearly wasn't his doing. Nothing bodes better for the Rams than the way Stafford is slinging it. Except, perhaps, the way that he, Sean McVay, and the Rams offensive line are protecting.
According to NextGen Stats, Stafford is the only passer who has faced 35 pressures without taking multiple sacks. That's right, he's been sacked just once in 2023 despite taking the second-most drop-backs in the league.
The head coach is fond of saying that pass protection takes all 11. So far, it's been a total team effort. Keep it up.
Take a look through the best photos of the Los Angeles Rams practicing ahead of their Monday Night Football game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
As for Stafford's counterpart, I fully expect Joe Burrow to play. Because while Cincinnati may prefer to shut him down to heal his injured calf, there may not be a season for him to return to if his Bengals fall to 0-3 or worse (only four teams out of 158 since 1990 have made the playoffs after dropping their first three games).
Plus, they just lost their third quarterback Will Grier to New England. So if their starter can't go, it's Jake Browning or bust.
What's dicey about preparing for Burrow, though, is knowing what to expect.
So as not to overexpose him versus Cleveland and Baltimore, the Bengals game plans have dragged Burrow's time to throw (2.31 seconds) and depth of target (7.0) averages to career lows. His PFF big time throw percentage has also never been worse (2.6 percent). Yet he's still got Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd. And they're begging for shot plays.
If you're a Rams corner, are you preparing for the bombs away Bengals or the dink-and-dunk version? Hopefully, Aaron Donald can dictate those terms.
Jonah and the Whale
First, that he was a 190-pound fledgling tight end in high school when his family moved from Washington to Idaho going into his junior year (now he's a hulking 6-foot-5 and 275 pounds). Thus, he didn't have a single FBS scholarship offer.
Second, on that buoyant day when Von Miller arrived at the Rams facility in November 2021, Williams was next door in an office being released to make room for the future Hall of Famer.
If you're looking for underrated contributors who just might be the key to earning a playoff spot this season, Jonah Williams is your guy. Pro Football Focus just gave him flying colors for his performance against offensive tackle Trent Williams and the 49ers. Position coach Eric Henderson thought he was even better than PFF did. Sean McVay said it was his best game as a Ram.
For more on his unique path to the NFL, check out our latest Rams Revealed with Jonah Williams.