ESPN has reported that Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton has fractured his right thumb. He left today’s game against the Steelers and didn’t return, sporting a black cast on the sidelines. In my opinion, he’s done for the year, although as of the time I posted this article, I haven’t found any hard, complete confirmation that his season is over.
Dalton has had a great season to this point, dispelling any questions Cincinnati fans have about his effectiveness. He’s thrown 25 touchdowns to only 7 picks, with over 3,200 yards. Most importantly, going into today, the Bengals were the second seed in the AFC, and poised for a first-round bye. Backup quarterback and former Alabama great AJ McCarron took over, throwing for 280 yards, with two scores and two picks in the loss.
Oh, how the mighty has fallen. Obviously, unless you’re someone like Greg Hardy or Terrell Suggs, I never wish injury upon you. That’s especially considering that I don’t hate Andy Dalton by any stretch. This does, however, help the Patriots’ pursuit of a first-round bye, which would be huge considering all of their injuries. Cincinnati will make the playoffs, and should conceivably still win the AFC North. Losing Dalton after the way he’s been playing this year is big-time, but not all is lost.
Here’s why. AJ McCarron can still succeed for the Bengals. He looked on-and-off on Sunday, which is to be expected when your number gets called in a tough, physical divisional game. His numbers left a bit to be desired, but they can still be there. McCarron was known for his accuracy and his rapport with receivers while with the Crimson Tide, and while he doesn’t have much game experience, he does know these receivers and he does know this offense. He’s got AJ Green, who is a top-five wideout in the NFL. He’s got a deep receiving core and two solid running backs, to go along with a great defense.
Plus, we know McCarron can play under pressure. He won two national championships as a member of the Tide, and honestly, in my opinion, being the quarterback at the University of Alabama comes with more scrutiny and pressure than the same position of the Cincinnati Bengals. You can argue with me if you want, but I won’t back down from that at all. There are WAY more ridiculous, die-hard fans screaming “Roll Tide!” than “Who Dey!” And if it means anything, I have a slight history of predicting if backup quarterbacks could step in and do well when the starter goes down (see my thoughts on DeShone Kizer of Notre Dame as Exhibit A).
I do have some questions in my head about the new Queen City starter. The biggest one being this- if AJ McCarron was to win a playoff game hypothetically, something that Andy Dalton has not done yet in his NFL career (not to mention he hasn’t really been close, either. He’s been the cause, more often than not, of their playoff woes), is there a quarterback controversy in Cincy? I mean, I’m a fan of McCarron. I actually wanted the Patriots to draft him to become heir-apparent to Tom Brady. He reminds me a lot of Brady- a great leader, a winner, an accurate quarterback. Would they really make a change if McCarron does well, if he wins in January, even once? That was the cause of Dalton’s criticism. I know he just signed a huge extension, but the only reason people aren’t criticizing him anymore is because he’s played out of his mind. I just think that’s something to think about.
What do you guys think? Are the Bengals screwed? Can McCarron succeed?
Photo credit to The Washington Post