Week 3 of the 2023 NFL Season features another Monday Night Football doubleheader, and the late game is a Super Bowl LVI rematch between the Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Rams. In February 2022, the Rams denied the Bengals their first franchise title, winning 23-20 to capture Los Angeles' second Super Bowl win. The game and season validated the Rams' all-in offseasons and midseason moves. Especially the Matthew Stafford trade. It also validated the Bengals' status as contenders and cemented the arrival of Joe Burrow on the national stage in the NFL. Since then, things have been up and down for the Bengals and Rams. The Rams struggled last year after their Super Bowl win, limping to an injury-riddled 5-12 campaign. The Bengals made it back to the conference title game last year before losing to Kansas City.
This year, the Bengals have been the ones nursing an offseason hangover, posting a depressing 0-2 start with losses to division rivals Baltimore and Cleveland. Fresh off of a huge extension, Joe Burrow has looked very average. The defense got run over by the Ravens and Browns, and now the Bengals are looking around, asking questions of themselves and each other. And they will have to answer those questions in prime time on Monday Night Football, or else face an 0-3 start.
The Rams have shown more life in their 1-1 start this season than they did for most of their 2022 post-Super Bowl campaign. So far, they've convincingly beaten their divisional foes, the Seattle Seahawks, while convincingly losing to other divisional rivals, the San Francisco 49ers. Wide receiver Puka Nacua has been a revelation for the offense without All-Pro Cooper Kupp. The 49ers were always going to be the divisional favorites this year. But if the Rams want to grow and be ready to challenge them for the division crown in their second meeting, putting a Bengals team already on the ropes onto the mat is a great place to start.
How to watch Bengals vs. Rams Monday Night Football
The later game for Week 3's Monday Night Football game will be on ESPN. With an ESPN+ or cable subscription, you can also watch on ESPN.com. If you don't have any of those, you can stream online via fuboTV. As a result of this week's doubleheader, there is no Manningcast broadcast. The Manningcast is set to return next week for Week 4.
Date: Monday, Sept. 25 | 8:15 p.m. EDT
Location: Paycor Stadium — Cincinnati, O.H.
T.V. channel: ESPN | Live stream: fuboTV (click for a free trial)
FanDuel Odds: Bengals -2.5 | O/U 43.5
The biggest storyline in the Bengals 0-2 start has been the play of Joe Burrow. 283 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception on 56 percent competition would've been a step back for Burrow in his season opener, especially given his huge deal. Now, considering that those are his numbers through the first two games, that isn't good. Aggravating a calf injury, leaving his Monday Night Football status for the Bengals vs. Rams game in question, that's worse. The best thing for Burrow's health would be rest. The reality of the NFL is that teams and players often fail to act in line with what they should do for their bodies. So, will Burrow play? How good will he look? These are the most significant questions on the minds of Bengals fans.
It's not just Burrow, though. The Bengals' defense has allowed over 380 rushing yards in just two games. Sean McVay and the Rams coaching staff will know that. And they will absolutely try to exploit that. Can the Bengals stop the bleeding and get their 2023 season back on track? Teams that start 0-3 are known for how little they rebound to make the playoffs. That makes this game as much of a must-win game as it can possibly be in Week 3.
Are the Rams back? Was last year just a blip on the radar of the great Sean McVay experience? Will Matthew Stafford and the other Los Angeles Rams stars be able to stay on the field for the whole season this year? This game feels like an inflection point for the Rams as much as it is for the Bengals. Good NFL teams must be able to put away bad or struggling teams. And if the Rams can do that, they'll be 2-1 after playing two divisional games and an AFC crossover against one of the conference's preseason favorites. If they lose, this game's story becomes just two 1-2 teams that fought to stay out of the league's basement and failed.
The Rams have all the momentum going into this game, and the Bengals have all the pressure. Behind Nacua, Stafford, receiver Tutu Atwell, and the ascendency of Kyren Williams in the backfield, the Rams offense looks back. When Aaron Donald is healthy, the Rams are a force on defense. Can they put it together and capitalize on the Bengals' early-season struggles? That's the biggest question facing Los Angeles ahead of Monday night.