Whether or not Joe Burrow makes it onto the field, one thing is for sure: the Cincinnati Bengals absolutely need a win against the Los Angeles Rams to avoid moving to 0-3, usually a death sentence as far as making the playoffs. With plenty of receiving talent in this one, including Ja’Marr Chase and Puka Nacua, let’s look at some players and pick some props to cash in on their Monday Night performances.
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With very different quarterback situations on each side, let’s take a look at how several key figures in the passing game could be affected.
Puka Nacua o5.5 Receptions (-140 BetMGM)
It’s beyond me why this line isn’t simply a reception higher if it’s going to be this heavily juiced to the over, but we take what we can get, and what we have here is an absolutely fantastic number for a player who has exploded onto the scene. Nacua, who was a fifth round pick out of BYU in this year’s draft, has shattered all kinds of records for productivity in a player’s first two games, as he’s caught 10 and 15 passes in those contests for a total of 266 yards. It’s pretty incredible to see, and alleviates Rams fans’ pain of losing Cooper Kupp to injury, but the question bears asking: is this legit?
PFF seems to believe that it is, as they have Nacua ranked as the seventh-best wideout of the year through two weeks of play. Putting up 15 catches for nearly 150 yards against a team like this year’s 49ers is a big deal, especially in a game that stayed competitive for most of the contest. He’s attracting a huge proportion of Stafford’s targets, and while it’s hard to know what will happen if and when Kupp returns, it won’t be this week; Nacua is the man in the LA pass attack for the time being.
It’s also worth noting that the Rams don’t run the ball particularly well. The team has yet to run for 100 yards in a game, and with a Cincy front seven that’s miles ahead of their gutted secondary, following the offseason departures of Jessie Bates and Vonn Bell at safety, this isn’t the time to try and finally establish the run. The Rams are going to the air often in this one, and Nacua is likely to be the beneficiary; even if he does come back to Earth a bit, 6 catches is so far below the bar he’s set that he should comfortably clear it as long as he’s Stafford’s top target.
Ja’Marr Chase u71.5 Receiving Yards (-115 BetMGM)
This is another one that surprises me quite a bit, but for a different reason; with all of the ambiguity around Burrow’s health, I’m shocked that sportsbooks have a market up for his receivers. That being said, as incredible of a player as Chase is, this is the spot to fade him. He’s put up under 40 yards in each of the past two games, despite catching five passes in each. To give some context, he averaged 12 yards per catch a year ago; with Burrow in a diminished state, the Bengals are simply struggling to get it downfield.
Whether or not Burrow plays, Chase is probably not getting back to his old self quite yet. Whether he gets an injured version of Cincy’s top QB or backup Jake Browning, it’s not likely that the LSU product sees too many perfect balls thrown his way, especially in the deeper portions of the field. Even against a pretty poor Rams pass defense, Chase’s big bounce back game- which is absolutely coming- will have to wait at least another week with the Bengals’ current quarterback situation.
Logan Wilson o8.5 Tackles+Assists (+105 BetMGM)
This is a really fun one for a few reasons, not the least of which is the fact that we’re getting an over/under pick in plus money. Another is that we get to play an over. So often, I’ve discussed how in terms of these defensive player props, picking the under isn’t fading a player, but rather expressing faith in them and their teammates to do their jobs. Much of the time, that’s the case, but it’s dependent on role. In this case, betting on Wilson’s over is an endorsement of his talent, as a linebacker who should be heavily involved in the defense.
Wilson is off to a rough start to this year, as are many Bengals, but he was PFF’s 18th-ranked linebacker a year ago, and the fourth-best tackler at the position. In terms of this specific prop, he’s picked up 8 and 10 tackles and assists in the first two games- the 10 coming in a matchup with the Ravens where the air game was much more of a factor. He averaged 8.2 per game last year, but put up 9 in that Super Bowl win over these Rams to end the 2021 season.
Even more than anything this says about what I think of Wilson himself, it’s a comment on the game script I’m expecting from the Rams. After looking like he might be finished last season, Matt Stafford is back this year and his play has been solid. The volume has been encouraging as well, with 38 throws on opening day and a whopping 55 last week, the fifth-most he’s ever thrown in an NFL game and his most as a Ram. With plenty of completed passes across the middle of the field, and a very stuffable Rams run game, Wilson should have no problem racking up tackles.