As the Cincinnati Bengals look to end the NFL’s longest playoff victory drought on Saturday against the Pittsburgh Steelers, a key component to any team’s offensive strategy is still undecided. Now that Andy Dalton has his cast off, the possibility of the “Red Rifle” starting in the first round of the NFL Playoffs seems to have some real potential. As the week goes on, Marvin Lewis and the Bengals will determine whether they face the Steelers defense with the starter that lead the Bengals to an 8-0 start but has a record of 0-4 in the NFL Playoffs, or whether they will end up going with his replacement out of Alabama, A.J. McCarron?
When the Bengals ran into the Steelers on December 13, it was a bad night all around for Cincinnati. Not only did they lose a home game to their division rivals, but their starting quarterback was injured as well. Having thrown an interception, Dalton went after Pittsburgh’s Stephon Tuitt to prevent any further damage. Unfortunately for the quarterback, tackling isn’t his specialty, and he ended up breaking his throwing hand.
Since stepping in for Dalton, A.J. McCarron hasn’t done a bad job. He lead the Bengals to victories over the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens. His only loss came in overtime against the Denver Broncos, who are currently the No. 1 seed in the AFC. Considering the fact that this is McCarron’s first real experience in the NFL, the Bengals must be happy with their choice for Andy’s back-up. But will a quarterback with just three full games on his résumé have what it takes to earn the Bengals’ first playoff win in over three decades? Or will Dalton get a chance to make up for all of his failed attempts at playing a second game in the post season?
As Dalton told the press last Friday, he had an appointment with with doctor scheduled for Monday, and he was optimistic that he might get the cast removed. As UPI.com reported, Bengals coach Marvin Lewis wasn’t happy with Andy Dalton when he shared that information. Dalton did get his cast off on Monday, but it is yet unclear whether or not he’ll be ready to go for Saturday evening’s game in Cincinnati.
As AL.com reports, Lewis didn’t want to give the press any information about Dalton’s condition, and remained adamant that the Bengals were prepping to face the Steelers with McCarron taking the snaps. But he certainly didn’t rule out the possibility that Dalton will return on Saturday night.
“We have to go into the week, obviously, regardless of Andy’s status, we’re going to go at least in the early part of the week preparing with AJ. We’ve felt good about his decision-making in those [last] three games. We weren’t as thrilled with his decision-making his first opportunity. So he’s progressed.”
While being unsure of who will start at QB in a few days for a major game isn’t ideal, it will definitely keep the Steelers defense on their toes, forcing them to be ready for either opponent.
The Pittsburgh Steelers earned the AFC’s No. 6 seed for the NFL Playoffs. They will travel to face AFC North division champs and the AFC’s No. 3 seed the Cincinnati Bengals on Saturday night. The winner of this NFL Wildcard Card Round match-up will travel to New England to face the Patriots the following weekend, hoping to earn a spot in the AFC Championship game, the last obstacle to being a part of SuperBowl 50.
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