In the NFL, close isn't good enough, but it does provide motivation.
Even though the Bengals are 0-7, head coach Zac Taylor believes his team had a chance to win almost every single game. Other than the home opener against the San Francisco 49ers (who lead the NFC West at 6-0), the Bengals have been within one score in the second half of every other contest.
Getting win No. 1 though won't be easy. The Rams enter the game 4-3, but are the defending NFC Champions led by superstars like Aaron Donald, Todd Gurley and the recently acquired Jalen Ramsey. But instead of dwelling on the daunting challenge ahead of them, the Bengals are focusing on the chance to change everything about their season.
While most of the focus will be on the Taylor-Sean McVay coaching connection, it will be those in the trenches that should dictate how each team fares in London.
Here are the three things to watch.
1. Future Hall of Fame Defensive Linemen – Two of the best defensive linemen of the 2010s will be on the same field as the Rams' Donald and the Bengals' Geno Atkins square off. It's a terrific display of two linemen who have revolutionized the position.
The accolades for both players are tremendous. Donald became only the third player in NFL history to be named back-to-back defensive player of the year after earning the award following the 2018 season. He also was named to five-consecutive Pro Bowls in his first five seasons (2014-18). Atkins is just as good with seven career Pro Bowl selections, the most ever by a Bengals defensive player. Both players have also overcome slow starts this season to get back on track. Donald has four sacks in 2019, while Atkins has recorded three.
2. Game-wrecking plays on defense – The thought here is with both offenses similar in how they operate, the coaching staffs will know where the soft spots will be. That could allow for some impact plays and the Bengals will need to capitalize on the available opportunities.
Against Jacksonville, the Bengals showed signs of turning the corner. Thanks to a Preston Brown stop, the Bengals made their first fourth and goal stop of the year. In the last three games, opponents have scored a red zone touchdown just 21 percent of the time. It's helped a maligned unit rank fourth overall in red zone touchdown scoring percentage.
3. Offensive Formations And Personnel – Taylor said in the news conferences after the Jacksonville game that everything is on the table to help improve an offense ranked 27th overall. Much has been made of the Bengals using 11 personnel (one running back, one tight end) this season. Taylor and company have been in 11 personnel on 86.1 percent of their 438 offensive snaps, the highest percentage in the league.
Injuries and game flow have largely dictated who has been on the field as well. With a Rams defense that ranks ninth in the NFL allowing 329.3 yards per game, don't be surprised to see some trick plays or unusual personnel groupings to attack.
Kickoff: 1 p.m. Eastern.
Television: The game will air on CBS. In the Bengals' home region, it will be carried by WKRC-TV (Ch. 12) in Cincinnati, WHIO-TV (Ch. 7) in Dayton and on WKYT-TV (Ch. 27) in Lexington. Broadcasters are Greg Gumbel (play-by-play), Trent Green (analyst) and Melanie Collins (sideline reporter).
Radio: The game will air on the Bengals Radio Network, led by Cincinnati flagship stations WLW-AM (700), WCKY-AM (ESPN 1530) and WEBN-FM (102.7). Broadcasters are Dan Hoard (play-by-play) and Dave Lapham (analyst).