DECEMBER 9, 2007
The Guru has taken an early Christmas hiatus from the Bengals.com roundtable to the French Riviera, but he leaves it in the capable hands of The Chief, a personnel director not in the Bengals division who gives the nod to the home team in a tossup game between two preseason heavyweights that took too many body shots.
A tossup game, that it is, until it was reported Friday that Rams quarterback Marc Bulger won't play, leaving it in the inexperienced hands of Brock Berlin.
Because with Bulger, the Chief saw one of the NFL's most feared offenses hitting stride with three wins in the last four games after the offensive line emerged from an injury devastation that mirrored what happened to the Bengals linebackers.
"Now that the Rams (3-9) are sort of healthy on offense, they can score just as many points as the Bengals (4-8) can," The Chief says. "At the beginning of the season, I thought they were going to be a team that was going to be reckoned with, and that's two years in a row they haven't had all their weapons. With the Rams banged up in the secondary, the Bengals ought to be able to put up some points."
Berlin has never taken an NFL snap and any No. 3 QB always conjures up memories of Jeff Blake. Blake, the Bengals No. 3 QB one week, the starter the next, a Pro Bowler the next season, set the bar for unkowns but he had thrown 10 NFL passes before he got the call.
And the Bengals hope to keep their second half going, where they have a 164-130 advantage.
The Bengals may need to match a long one from Rams running back Steven Jackson. Jackson has scored touchdowns of least 50 yards in each of the last two games. The Bengals haven't had a run of 50 yards in the past 50 games.
The Bengals gave up some pressure to the Steelers last week on third down, but are second in the NFL in allowing the fewest sacks per pass. Without Little, the Rams pass rush is middle of the pack at No. 18. But defensive coordinator Jim Haslett has used the blitz effectively enough that his unit is seventh best in the NFL at getting off the field.
Wade, a third-round pick out of Tennessee, is a raw talent who was a receiver and track guy in college before settling down to make 28 starts at corner. No question he's fast, as a 2005 indoor and outdoor track All-American, but the Rams were just hoping to use him on special teams this season until he got some seasoning in him. The best laid plans ...
The Rams may see plenty of rookie safety Chinedum Ndukwe on the blitz, too. With free safety Madieu Williams (quad) questionable, Ndukwe could get his first NFL start. He already has two sacks on passing downs.
But on first and second down, Jeanty will also have to flash that athleticism in the flat that made him a CFL sack leader to make sure Jackson doesn't run wild in the passing game. Berlin will no doubt be looking for more safety valves than a nuclear power plant in his first NFL start.
Asked if Bruce still has it, Joseph said, "Watch him Sunday. He's still got it."