The Cincinnati Bengals entered Week 14 with thoughts of clinching the AFC North and working to secure a first-round bye in the postseason, but a significant damper was put on the season when Andy Dalton left early with a thumb injury in a 33-20 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Part of the reason the Bengals were able to jump out to a 10-2 start to the 2015 season was a remarkably injury-free season for the majority of the year. Entering Week 14, only three players were on the Cincinnati injured reserve. It’s too early to know if the injury suffered by Dalton will force the Bengals to add him to the list, but things don’t look good after he was quickly ruled out for the remainder of the game before returning to the field with a cast over his throwing hand.
It wasn’t the only injury for the Bengals either. A concussion for tight end Tyler Eifert and a groin injury for safety George Iloka ended the day early for two more Cincinnati starters.
If Dalton isn’t able to go for an extended period of time, it will be AJ McCarron taking over the reins of one of the NFL’s highest-scoring offenses. But against the No. 22 defense in the NFL, McCarron couldn’t find the end zone often enough, although he didn’t waste much time throwing his first NFL touchdown.
And SB Nation’s NFL experts are predicting the Lions’ title drought will end in 2016. Detroit hasn’t finished a season on top of its division since 1993, when Barry Sanders was still around to make all our Thanksgivings a bit brighter. By a 5-4 margin, writers have given Matthew Stafford a vote of confidence despite the finger injury that has limited him to a 1:4 TD:INT ratio in his last three games.