Bengals Super Bowl Hopes Take Hit With Andy Dalton Injury
There’s no day like Sunday for major NFL news. The Cincinnati Bengals would probably prefer to not be a part of it. They unfortunately are, as franchise quarterback Andy Dalton suffered a thumb injury in week 14 as he dove to try to make a tackle after throwing an interception. Dalton immediately exited Sunday’s loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers and was replaced by backup quarterback, A.J. McCarron.
McCarron struggled in relief in a game the Steelers ultimately handled relatively easily. While things didn’t look good in the loss, Cincy’s 2015 outlook is even more bleak going forward, as Dalton broke his thumb on his throwing hand and is very likely done for the year. Per reports, the best case scenario is Dalton could return at some point in the playoffs, but at what point at this moment is not clear.
And there’s the rub. Had the Bengals found a way to top the hated Steelers on Sunday, they would have locked up the AFC North crown. There would be no “if” they make the playoffs discussion. But with a loss and Dalton likely out for the remainder of the regular season, that’s definitely a serious concern.
Just a few weeks ago Cincinnati was undefeated and talking about going 16-0 or at least locking up a first round bye. They’ve now dropped three of their last four game and will have to maneuver through the stretch run with an inexperienced backup under center.
So far, Dalton has only officially been ruled out for week 15, although early signs point to the star passer missing “4-6 weeks”. If that’s the case, Dalton would miss the rest of the regular season and if Cincy held on to make the playoffs, he may not be back in time to save them even then.
The darkest of scenarios includes the Bengals sliding out of the playoffs by losing their final three games. As crazy as that sounds, it’s not impossible with Cincy facing the 49ers and Broncos on the road the next two weeks and the Ravens at home in the week 17 season finale. With Dalton under center, there’s a good chance the Bengals finish strong with a 2-1 run, or even win out. With McCarron as the starting quarter back, however, dropping to 10-6 is a real fear the Bengals need to prepare for.
With the Steelers waiting to take over the division and numerous wild card teams gunning for similar 10-6 finishes, the Bengals could quickly go from potential title contenders to sitting on the couch come playoff time. In other words, the Bengals are rapidly looking like a less appealing bet to go the distance. Almost as importantly, the rest of the AFC field is starting to heat up. If you’re feeling saucy in regards to a sleeper Super Bowl winner this year, now may be the time to pounce.