Besides having to deal with a new right side of the offensive line, the Bengals' running game might be further behind the eight ball if Chris Pressley and Brian Leonard can't play Sunday at St. Louis. Both have knee injuries.
Pressley, who has started at fullback in all 13 games, has been one of the reasons why the running game has slightly improved this season. It has meant that Cedric Benson is averaging a half a yard better per carry.
Leonard did not play in last week's loss to Houston due to a bruised knee. His presence was especially felt on third downs as the Bengals were just 5-of-13. Leonard played with the Rams for two seasons before being traded to the Bengals in 2009.
If Pressley can't play, there is a good chance that Cedric Peerman would see time at fullback. Peerman has not taken a snap in the backfield this year but is a physical player. He leads the team in special teams tackles with 12.
The running game will be a huge factor going into the Rams game. St. Louis is last in the league in run defense. Benson is a physical back that gets stronger as the game goes along but has only one game this season where he has 25 or more carries.
Of Benson's 16 career 100-yard games, five have been in December.
--For the second time in four seasons the Bengals are dealing with some late-season changes to their offensive line. This one though comes in the middle of them trying to contend for a playoff spot.
The concerns are on the right side of the line where Andre Smith has been dealing with an ankle injury, but all indications are he should be ready for Sunday's game against St. Louis. The biggest question though is at right guard as Mike McGlynn takes Bobbie Williams' place.
Williams' season ended early when he broke his right ankle in last week's loss to Houston. McGlynn is a fourth-year player who was acquired on waivers from Philadelphia the week before the start of the regular season.
McGlynn started the Week 4 game against Buffalo while Williams was serving his four-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on Performance Enhancing Substances when he took a diuretic. McGlynn also saw extensive playing time in Week 3 when he replaced struggling rookie Clint Boling.
Up until last week, his only action in the previous seven games were three snaps at the end of the Week 8 game against Seattle.
The advantage for McGlynn this week is that he has a better understanding of technique and the offense. He is also one of the more versatile linemen the Bengals have as he played center, right guard and right tackle during his NFL career.
"The opportunity of getting in that role and practicing (at right guard) for a full week is huge," McGlynn said. "We've done some good things and it's a good challenge this week going up against St. Louis. Hopefully able to take advantage of some of the things that they do."
McGlynn did have a false start on a fourth-down play during the fourth quarter when the Bengals were trying to draw Houston offside. Even factoring that in, line coach Paul Alexander thought McGlynn did fine considering the lack of snaps he got in practice.
While the Bengals are great in pass protection -- they are tied for third in the league in least sacks allowed with 21 -- they have been inconsistent in run blocking.
It remains to be seen if the Bengals will remain balanced in running to both sides or whether they will revert to the pattern that they had earlier in the season when Williams was suspended where there was a definite slant to running left.
"I think protection is good but we've got to keep it going. It's been solid," Alexander said. "I'm real happy with the way Kyle Cook has played. He makes so few mental errors and that is half the battle. I've been happy to this point keeping a rookie QB as clean to this point."
This also won't be the first time we are talking about concerns at guard for the Bengals. Williams, McGlynn and starting left guard Nate Livings will be free agents. That leaves just Boling and second-year player Otis Hudson, who was just re-signed from the practice squad, as the only players remaining.
Alexander likes to develop players and then have them enter the lineup with Livings and Cook as the two best examples. But considering they could lose both starters and that Williams will turn 36 next year, he might not have that choice.
"We don't need to look ahead. We need to win this game. That's all that matters," head coach Marvin Lewis said. "Maybe we can talk about that after sometime, hopefully in February, sometime when we're done, and then we can talk about how we did at guard. Things will happen as they happen, and all things will fall into place just the way they do."
SERIES HISTORY: 12th regular-season meeting. Bengals lead series, 6-5. The Rams are 3-1 in the series since they moved to St. Louis in 1995. Bengals won the most recent meeting in the series in 2007 in Cincinnati 19-10.
--The Bengals have never won a regular-season game in St. Louis. They were 0-1 against the Cardinals, dropping a 1985 game at Busch Stadium 41-27 and have lost both games to the Rams - 26-16 in 1996 and 27-10 in 2003. Both of the games against the Rams were at the Edward Jones Dome.
--The Bengals were 2-1 on the road against the Rams when the franchise was based in Los Angeles. They faced the Rams in 1972 and '78 at the Los Angeles Coliseum and in '90 at Anaheim Stadium.
--The Bengals' record for passing yards in a game (490) was posted by Boomer Esiason against the Rams in the 1990 game, which they won 34-31 in overtime. The Bengals' team record for net yards passing (483) was also set in that game.
--This is the 62nd indoor game in franchise history. The Bengals have played in 11 different domed stadiums, including games where the retractable roof has been closed. They are 24-36-1 in indoor games and have dropped their last five. The last win in a dome in a regular-season game occurred in 2006, when the Bengals defeated the Saints 31-16.
--With five sacks last week against Houston, which tied a season high, the Bengals have 36 sacks on the season and are on pace for 44, which would be the most in the Marvin Lewis era (the 2003 team had 40). The team record is 48, which was set in 2001. Cornerback Kelly Jennings had a sack last week, which made him the 14th player to record one this season.
--For only the second time in the last 28 seasons, the Bengals will have the same player lead the team in both punt-return and kickoff-return attempts. Brandon Tate set the franchise record last week for combined returns with 77 (44 punts, 33 kickoffs). Cleotha Montgomery had the old mark of 75 (31 punts and 44 kickoffs), which was set in 1980.
Tate will be the first Bengal since 1993 - and only the second since 1984 - to lead the team in both categories. Patrick Robinson led in 1993 with 43 punt returns and 30 kickoff returns.
--With Bobbie Williams getting placed on IR, he became only the seventh player to go on the season-ending list. Last year at this time, the Bengals had 16 on the list through 13 games.
BY THE NUMBERS: 0-3 - The Bengals record this season when they get five sacks in a game.
QUOTE OF NOTE: "The offensive line group by nature is a group that you want to be collectively playing together. They're like a clique. They're a little fraternity. That's what they do. They don't ever go far from each other. They sit in the meetings, the center sits in the middle, the guards sit on each side and then the tackles sit (on the outsides). That's the way they sit. Then the second group sits behind them. It's the way they go through life." - Coach Marvin Lewis on offensive lines.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
For the first time in three weeks, defensive end Carlos Dunlap practiced with the defensive line. Dunlap has missed three straight games and four of the last five since he suffered a hamstring injury late in the Nov. 6 win over Tennessee. Up until Wednesday, the last time Dunlap had practiced was Nov. 18, which was before the Baltimore game.
The Bengals got five sacks in last week's game against Houston, but Dunlap's presence has been missed because he consistently gets pressure on the quarterback. Besides having three sacks, he leads the team with 22 quarterback pressures.
Safety Taylor Mays, who saw his most extensive action of the season last week, will continue to see increased playing time as he provides good matchups against tight ends.
--OT Andre Smith (ankle) did not practice on Thursday after being limited on Wednesday. With Smith suffering a slight setback, it appears as if Anthony Collins will get his second straight start.
--DE Carlos Dunlap (hamstring) was limited in practice for a second straight day. All indications are he will play for the first time in four games.
--LB Dontay Moch (illness) continues to deal with migraine issues and has not practiced for the last four weeks.
--DE Frostee Rucker (hamstring) showed up on the practice report as limited, but all indications are he will play.
--LB Manny Lawson has 4.5 sacks against the Rams (when he was with the 49ers), which is his most against any opponent.
GAME PLAN: The Bengals will be highly favored, but one area where the struggling offense has to improve is in the red zone.
Over the past five games they are 6 of 14 scoring touchdowns inside the opponent's 20 and have three no scores. They will face a Rams defense that is tied for ninth in the league, allowing only 18 touchdowns in 40 trips.
One area where they could exploit the Rams is on the ground. They have the league's worst run defense and Benson already has three 100-yard games this season. TE Jermaine Gresham also needs to be more involved offensively.
On defense, expect the Bengals to continue to dial up plenty of pressure packages which might actually work this week. The Rams have allowed the most sacks in the league and outside of Brandon Lloyd are lacking any talent at receiver.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Bengals RT Andre Smith vs. Rams DE Chris Long: Smith has really improved as a pass protector and his best game of the year was in shutting down Indianapolis' Robert Mathis. Long has very good quickness and leads the Rams with 12 sacks.
Bengals LB Rey Maualuga vs. Rams RB Steven Jackson: Maualuga is an aggressive linebacker but too often this season has been caught out of position. Jackson is still shifty and is also a physical back that can help control the clock for the Rams.