This time a year ago, Zac Taylor was helping the Los Angeles Rams on their run to Super Bowl LIII. On Sunday, Taylor, the Rams' former quarterbacks coach and current Cincinnati Bengals head coach, will face his former team for the first time.
While Taylor is still in search of his first win as an NFL head coach, the Rams are looking to close the gap between themselves and divisional foes San Francisco and Seattle in the race for the NFC West division title. Los Angeles, after a 3-0 start, are currently 4-3 and are trailing the Seahawks (5-2) and 49ers (6-0) in the division standings.
The Rams appear to be buoyed by the addition of Jalen Ramsey, a former All-Pro cornerback who Los Angeles acquired last week in a trade with the Jacksonville Jaguars. With Ramsey helping contain Falcons Pro Bowl receiver Julio Jones, Los Angeles ended their three-game losing skid last season while leaving Atlanta with a 37-10 victory.
Cincinnati, despite their 0-7 record, have been competitive in all but two of their contests entering Sunday's game in Los Angeles. After getting blown out by the Steelers in Week 4, the Bengals' last three losses have come by a combined 19 points. Cincinnati's lack of a running game and their inability to stop the run loomed large in last Sunday's 10-point loss to the visiting Jacksonville Jaguars.
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Cincinnati enters Sunday's game with the 28th ranked scoring offense and 24th ranked scoring defense. Quarterback Andy Dalton, playing in front of a hobbled offense line, has also been throwing to a depleted receiving corps that doesn't include former Pro Bowler A.J. Green and John Ross, the 2017 first round pick who suffered a season-ending shoulder injury earlier this month. Dalton, a nine-year veteran, has completed just 60.1 percent of his passes this season with an 8/8 touchdown/interception ratio.
Dalton has found a rapport with Tyler Boyd, a 2016 second round pick who leads the Bengals with 471 receiving yards. The Bengals' lack of depth on the offensive line has hindered running back Joe Mixon, a 1,100-yard runner last season who is currently averaging just 3.0 yards per cary.
While defensive tackle Geno Atkins (three sacks this season) is still playing at a Pro Bowl level, Cincinnati's nine sacks as a team is the 29th lowest total in the NFL. And while Dre Kirkpatrick and William Jackson have been a decent 1-2 punch at cornerback, the Bengals' are currently dead last in the NFL when it come to stopping the run.
The Rams currently boast the NFL's seventh ranked scoring offense, averaging 27.1 points per game entering Sunday's contest. Despite their success with regard to scoring points, the Rams' offense continues to be a work in progress. Quarterback Jared Goff had has an up and season thus far, as he has completed just 61.8 percent of his passes thus far with a 9/7 touchdown/interception ratio. He has found success getting the ball to receiver Cooper Kupp, who leads the Rams with 572 yards and four touchdowns on 51 receptions.
Todd Gurley's lack of success has been another reason for Los Angeles' offensive inconsistencies. Through seven games, the two-time All-Pro has just 81 receiving yards and is averaging a pedestrian 3.8 yards per carry. He could have a breakout game on Sunday, however, as he is going against a Cincinnati defense that is giving up an average of 189 rushing yards per game.
The Rams' defense suffered a setback earlier this month when linebacker Clay Matthews -- who leads the team with six sacks -- suffered a broken jaw that is expected to sideline him for least a month. Picking up the sack in Matthews' absence has been fellow linebacker Dante Fowler, who racked up three sacks in Los Angeles' blowout win over the Falcons.
While the Rams have their flaws, I think they will be able to cover their 13.5 point spread this Sunday at home while getting to 5-3 at the midseason point. Be sure to check out more from our experts at CBSSports.com -- including Will Brinson and Pete Prisco -- to help with your betting chances.