Go here for this week's Passing Matchups
Top Rushing Matchup
Los Angeles vs Cincinnati
The Rams remain committed to the running game, but it has struggled mightily so far this postseason. While they’ve faced three very good defenses including two elite defenses in Tampa Bay and San Francisco, the Rams have run the ball 97 times for just 286 yards which comes out to a 2.9 yards-per-carry average. There could be some good news coming for the Rams as Darrell Henderson is expected to return this week after having not played since Week 16. This could alleviate some pressure off of Cam Akers who was rushed back from his torn Achilles injury in record time but has not looked like the Cam Akers pre-injury which is not surprising as it is a brutal injury that often takes much longer to recover from. It appears that the Rams will ride the hot hand in the Super Bowl, but they will remain committed to the run as it is critical that they are able to run the ball against the Bengals to setup their passing game. The Rams boast one of the league's best offensive lines led by veteran and now oldest player in the NFL in Andrew Whitworth who continues to play at an elite level while Rob Havenstein at right tackle is also playing at an elite level this season.
Both the Bengals and the Rams have elite run defenses, but the Bengals have been struggling a little bit since Week 17. On the season, they allowed just 83 yards per game rushing, but have struggled mightily since Week 17, the Bengals have allowed 127 yards to Kansas City (7.1 yards-per-carry), 187 to Cleveland (5.3 YPC), 83 to Las Vegas (6.4 YPC), 128 yards to Tennessee (5.4 YPC), and 102 to Kansas City (5.4 YPC). The issue for the Bengals is if you can get past their elite defensive line, they do have problems at the linebacker position as Logan Wilson and Germaine Pratt have struggled in run defense. This is a unit that still has one of the best defensive tackle combinations in football in D.J. Reader and B.J. Hill making running up the middle incredibly difficult against this team so the Rams will look to run off tackle to have success this week.
Bottom Rushing Matchup
Cincinnati vs Los Angeles
Joe Mixon had one of his better games of the season in the conference championship game as he had 21 carries for 88 yards on 21 carries. Mixon has topped 100 yards just three times this season and the conference championship game was the first time he had over 20 carries, the first time he topped 65 yards, and the first time he topped 4.0 yards-per-carry since Week 12. This rushing attack has been a struggle since the injury to Riley Reiff as they have had to go to a pass heavy approach as Isaiah Prince has struggled at right tackle in filling in for Reiff. The Bengals have utilized Mixon as a receiver much more since Week 12 as the offensive line issues have forced them to get the ball to the talented Mixon in multiple creative ways. The key to this game will be whether the offensive line can hold up against the Rams defensive front of Aaron Donald and Von Miller.
The Rams run defense has stepped up in the playoffs and has been even better than the regular season. On the year they allowed just 78 yards to opposing running backs while in the playoffs they are allowing a staggeringly low 42 rushing yards per game. Eric Weddle has been a big reason for the success in the playoffs as while the 37-year-old safety may not be great in coverage anymore, he has 18 tackles in the first three games of the playoffs. The Rams have an elite defensive line, but they had previously been susceptible by poor linebacking play and inexperienced safeties. By adding Weddle to the mix, he immediately becomes their best linebacker as he has lined up in the box more than he has at free safety. Look for the Rams to utilize their defensive line dominance of Aaron Donald and Von Miller with Weddle stepping in to clean up any plays that they may have missed.