At 10-2, the Cincinnati Bengals were the No. 1 seed in the AFC and had legitimate hopes of not only winning their first playoff game in a quarter of a century, but also playing in Super Bowl 50. At 10-3, however, they’re just hoping to stay afloat in the AFC North and somehow get a first-round bye.
That’s what happens when you lose your starting quarterback.
Is the Bengals’ season more or less over now that Andy Dalton will miss four to six weeks with a broken thumb?
“Yeah, pretty much,” Ross Tucker, host of The Ross Tucker Podcast, said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “I don’t know anybody that thinks that Dalton will be back in less than four weeks, and a lot of people think it’s more like six weeks. It’s a broken thumb on his throwing hand. Think about it. Think about anybody that’s ever broken a thumb, which I’ve done once. The idea of gripping a football, let alone throwing it at a high level – you can shoot something up for the pain part of it, but that doesn’t mean it can function the way you need it to function. I think it’s at least four weeks he’s out.”
While it’s easy to second-guess Dalton’s decision to tackle Steelers defensive end Stephon Tuitt, Tucker doesn’t hold it against him.
“I think it was a reaction,” Tucker said. “It’s hard to fault a guy for that. You try to throw that inside screen, Tuitt makes a tremendous play for the Steelers and you just react. He’s probably been playing football since he was 5 years old, he’s four feet away from the guy, he’s the one that threw the pick. I think it’s tough to say, ‘Oh, I’m going get out of the way’ – especially playing the Steelers (with a) chance to win the division. If he just got out of the way there, then there might be criticism for him the other way. I think what was dumb was to break his thumb doing it.”
Either way, the Bengals must now rely on AJ McCarron leading them to the playoffs. MaCarron was 22-of-32 for 280 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions in a 33-20 loss to the Steelers on Sunday. Cincinnati closes the season at San Francisco (4-9), at Denver (10-3) and against Baltimore (4-9).
“I think McCarron will do okay,” Tucker said. “I think they’ll win two out of these last three games in some way shape or form, which might even give them a bye, which would be huge. But I don’t picture them winning playoff games with McCarron, and I’m not sure I picture them winning playoff games with a beat-up Dalton.”