The negative remarks and doomsday prophecies have started for the Cincinnati Bengals. Not only did they fail to win the AFC North crown against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, Andy Dalton suffered a fractured thumb. Backup quarterback AJ McCarron is expected to start the last three games for the Bengals. Although many analysts are writing the Bengals off, they're going full speed ahead with McCarron.
The Bengals had everything going their way. The road to the division championship was rerouted through Cincinnati. They were relatively healthy and merely needed to win a game against their arch-rivals to secure the position. The added luxury was keeping pace with the New England Patriots for the coveted first seed position in the AFC. En route to the loss, Andy Dalton suffered an injury that put the Bengals season in jeopardy.
Dalton had changed the thinking of many Cincinnati fans by turning his career around. The ginger-haired signal-caller was having his best year ever since joining the franchise. With the help of other players returning from injuries, Dalton seemed to be on a collision course with his first playoff win and a Super Bowl trip.
But the mindset of the NFL is next man up. With that being said, the Bengals have decided to move ahead with AJ McCarron calling the shots. When he entered the game, there was no drop in the play calling from the sideline. Hue Jackson was sending the ball all over the field.
McCarron isn't going to be a vessel to hand the ball off. He's going to make plays and win games. He's going to do it his way once Jackson and the first team gets a feel for what he likes to do most. Those plays will be go-to plays in big situations.
"There's a guy named A.J. Green and Marvin Jones and Tyler Eifert. We have too many good football players," offensive coordinator Hue Jackson confirmed, via the Cincinnati Bengals site. "So I'm not going to stymie our guys because of one position. Because I don't think we need to. This guy can play. Please. This guy can play. It's be different if we had a guy I thought couldn't play. Maybe the conversation we'd have would be different. I believe this guy can play."
That's a major difference that the Bengals are happy to have. AJ McCarron can play. He comes from a football factory in Alabama that prepped him for the pressures of the NFL. The Crimson Tide is no stranger to championship madness and insane, rabid fans. It's a rite of passage to be drenched in the craziness of the mania there.
The Bengals may have a hidden gem in McCarron. There's another NFL legend that got his first start in a similar fashion. Tom Brady was a backup for Drew Bledsoe when he got the chance to carve history for himself. But McCarron wants to end any comparisons to the New England quarterback. He knows the story but isn't putting himself alongside Brady.
"I wasn't comparing myself to one of the greats of all-time. Whoever took that out is ridiculous," McCarron clarified. "What I'm saying is Tom Brady was in the same team situation when Drew Bledsoe went out. We have a great team, he had a great team. That's what I put forth on that talking about what he made of his opportunity. But I feel like the big games I've played in, I played in a lot in college. It's a different game at this level but still big pressure moments and I feel like I've had a lot of those."
The Bengals definitely have a great team. They're one of the more balanced teams in the playoff picture. Though the loss of Andy Dalton may be a blow to the potent offense of the Bengals, they have a gamer for a backup. It looks like full speed ahead for McCarron and the Men in Orange and Black.
[Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images]