Bengals fans will get a little extra football this season.
For the first time since 2015, Cincinnati is heading to the playoffs after securing the crown of the AFC North division last week. There is now only one match left in the 2021 magic campaign for the team that finished fourth for three seasons in a row. This game is another clash against a rival from the AFC North Browns.
Given that the team has already secured a position in the playoffs, the Bengals will miss a number of starters in the last game of the regular part on Sunday.
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Sporting News discusses who will oppose the game and why Cincinnati is making that decision.
Why does Joe Burrow sit? Browns?
The most notable inactive for the game will be Burrow. Burrow, this season’s MVP candidate, has helped the Bengals make a turnaround, especially in the last two games, as they have completed 78.8 percent of their passes at 971 yards, eight touchdowns and no interceptions. Overall, he completed 70.4 percent of his passes this year with 34 touchdowns, 14 interceptions and 4,611 yards.
But the Bengalis now look big. Burrow is arguably the most important part of their attack and has been fired 51 times in the league this season. He will face the Browns, which includes Myles Garrett, one of the league’s best pass-rusters, and a team that has a total of 39 sacks a year.
There is also the fact that last week in one of the last games of the game, Burrow adjusted his right knee, thus worsening the injury he first suffered in the 13th week against the Chargers. He was limited to just 10 games last season after having left knee surgery at the end of the season to repair a torn ACL and MCL.
“I can definitely say for Joe that we’ll let him rest this week and make sure he’s 100 percent ready to go,” Taylor told his news conference on Wednesday. “I know he felt good and could play if needed, but I just decided to let him rest this week.”
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Burrow will be replaced by Bengals advance Brandon Allen, who, after Burrow’s injury, started five games for the Bengals last season. In those five games, he went 1-4 with a completion percentage of 63.4 percent, five passes for a touchdown and four interceptions with 925 yards.
The Bengals still have the potential to finish 2nd in the playoffs, but it would require the Titans to lose to the Texans on Sunday, which would be a big disappointment, and for the Bills to secure AFC East with a win against the Jets and keep the Patriots away from divisional crown. Since it is very likely that Cincinnati will end up as seed number 3 or 4 and will host the first round of the playoffs regardless, the motivation to play for the seed should not be as high.
There is also the fact that much of the field remains disorganized and the Bengals could face any of the seven playoff teams that are still in the playoffs and have not secured a division title.
Who are the resting Bengals vs. Browns?
However, the rest of the starters remain a bit uncertain. Taylor said during his press conference that the team did not have too many in-depth conversations about who would be starting the match, if any for Burrow.
However, there are several that have already been excluded from the game. Running back Joe Mixon tested positive on COVID-19, and although he was technically able to return from the roster in time for the match, ESPN’s Adam Schefter said he would not play on Sunday.
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Cincinnati will also not have Quinton Spain’s left guard, who was not only added to the COVID-19 roster, but also had an ankle sprain that eliminated him from the 17th week’s match with the Chiefs. Taylor said during his press conference that he did not expect it to take him too long.
Taylor also said it is possible that newcomer wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase will be calm on Sunday.
At the beginning of the week, other Bengalis were on the COVID-19 list and their status remains unclear whether they will play. Among them were safety Vonn Bell, defensive ending Trey Hendrickson and center Trey Hopkins.