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By: Kenneth Arthur
The ‘Super Bowl rematch’ has had more turns than a cheap action movie script
Which version of Joe Burrow will the Los Angeles Rams face when they travel to play the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday Night Football next week, if they face Joe Burrow at all? The NFL’s highest-paid player told reporters after Week 2’s loss to the Baltimore Ravens that “there’s no telling how (my calf) will feel” in the coming days, referring to an injury he suffered at the start of training camp.
After two horrifically bad games for the Bengals offense, Cincinnati fans and even coach Zac Taylor have to be a little worried that Burrow was rushed back too fast and that he might need time off to get right.
Burrow was better Sunday in a 27-24 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, but he limped off the field late in the fourth quarter and was seen massaging his calf on the sideline. While he said he could’ve gone back into the game if the Bengals had one more shot, he’s not sure how it’s going to feel Monday and Tuesday.
“It’s pretty sore,” Burrow said. “There’s no telling how it will feel. We’ll see in the next couple of days.”
The Bengals didn’t score the season’s first offensive touchdown until late in the third quarter. They added a score in the fourth quarter with the offense showing signs of life.
“When your quarterback misses camp, it’s tough to start fast,” Burrow said. “That’s not an ideal situation.”
Burrow finished the game completing 27-of-41 passes for 222 yards (5.4 yards per attempt) with two touchdown and one interception, but was only sacked one time. Star wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase was held to five catches for 31 yards on eight targets.
In Week 1’s loss to the Cleveland Browns in which the Bengals had just six first downs, Burrow was 14-of-31 for 82 yards with two sacks and Chase caught five passes for 39 yards on nine targets.
That puts Burrow at 41-of-72 passing with barely over 4 yards per attempt and Chase at 80 yards on 10 catches and 17 targets.
Going into last season, the Rams and Bengals were the respective reigning champions of their conferences. Cincinnati started 0-2 but rebounded to finish 12-4 and reach the AFC Championship game for the second year in a row, a 23-20 loss to the Chiefs. They were the team expected to be back in contention for the Super Bowl in the early going of the season, not an L.A. team that fell to 5-12 last season.
However, Matthew Stafford and Sean McVay are off to a much better start than Burrow and Taylor in spite of a 30-23 loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.
Of course, bettors aren’t sold yet that the Rams have caught up to the Bengals after season, no matter how bad or hurt Burrow has looked thus far. Cincinnati is favored by 7.5 points. That number would obviously change if Burrow was listed as questionable on the injury report, not something that appears to be a fear of the team as of yet but clearly getting the offense right somehow is the first thing on the mind of Taylor.
This isn’t the Super Bowl rematch most expected at the start of the season, with the Bengals thought to have a huge advantage over the Rams. But it is probably the game that Monday Night Football and the NFL desperately wanted: An intriguing one.