Every team has injuries, but the Bengals are one of those teams that may have more than anyone. After putting two starters on the offensive line on IR before the season, Travelle Wharton and Kyle Cook (though the latter can be reactivated later this season), the Bengals were without 4 key contributors with injury last week as Carlos Dunlap, Jason Allen, Dre Kirkpatrick, and Bernard Scott all missed.
Scott is expected to return this week, to serve as a compliment to BenJarvus Green-Ellis, but Dre Kirkpatrick will not play and Jason Allen and Carlos Dunlap are unlikely to play. Kirkpatrick’s and Allen’s absence will force Nate Clements to start at cornerback next to Leon Hall again, who is still only 10 months removed from a torn Achilles and was uncharacteristically torched because of it in the opener. Dunlap, meanwhile, is their top pass rusher. Last year, Dunlap managed 5 sacks, 13 quarterback hits, and 29 quarterback pressures, on 302 pass rush snaps, a pass rush rate of 15.6%.
You can add one more name to that list as every down linebacker Thomas Howard has torn his ACL and will miss the rest of the season. In his absence, a trio of Dan Skuta, Vontaze Burfict, and Vincent Rey will split snaps. Without those Allen, Kirkpatrick, and Dunlap, the Bengals had a ton of troubling stopping the Ravens last week and, now without Howard, they aren’t safe bets as touchdown favorites this week, even against the lowly Browns.
Also, Andy Dalton is continuing his struggles from the 2nd half of last season (54.8% completion, 6.6 YPA, 8 touchdowns, 6 interception) and the preseason. In the opener against Baltimore, he completed 22 of 37 for 221 yards and a pick. Those numbers don’t even tell the whole story. Only 80 of those 221 yards were in the air; the rest were after the catch. He settled for short stuff all night, completing just 4 passes that went more than 10 yards through the air (4 of 11) and his adjusted QB rating of 66.2 was 26th out of 32 starting quarterbacks in the NFL week 1. These two teams aren’t as unevenly matched as people commonly think.