Bengals fans will have some extra football this season.
For the first time since 2015, Cincinnati is heading to the playoffs after winning the AFC North Division crown last week. He has just one game left in what has been a magical 2021 campaign for a team that has finished in fourth place for three consecutive seasons. This game is another clash against AFC rival North Browns.
With the team already locked in the playoffs, the Bengals will be missing a number of starters on Sunday in the final game of the regular season.
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Sporting News explains who will be sitting against the game and why Cincinnati is making the decision.
Why is Joe Burrow sitting against Browns?
The most notable inactive for the game will be Burrow. An MVP candidate this season, Burrow was instrumental in leading the Bengals to that turnaround, especially in the last two games, as he combined 78.8% of his passes for 971 yards, eight touchdowns and no interceptions. Overall this year, he completed 70.4% of his passes for 34 touchdowns, 14 interceptions and 4,611 yards.
However, the Bengals now have the big picture. Burrow is the undisputed most important piece of their offense, and he’s already been sacked the most in the league 51 times this season. He will face a Browns team that includes Myles Garrett, one of the league’s top assistants, and a team that has 39 sacks this year.
There’s also the fact that last week, in one of the final games of the match, Burrow twisted his right knee, exacerbating an injury he first suffered in Week 13 against the Chargers. Last season, he was limited to just 10 games after undergoing end-of-season left knee surgery to repair an ACL and MCL tear.
“I can definitely say for Joe that we’re going to put him down this week and make sure he’s 100% ready,” Taylor said at his press conference on Wednesday. “I know he’s feeling good and can play if he needs to, but I’ve just made the decision that we’re going to put him down this week.”
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In Burrow’s place, the Bengals will start substitute Brandon Allen, who started five games for the Bengals last season following Burrow’s injury. In those five games, he’s gone 1-4 with a 63.4% completion percentage, five touchdowns and four interceptions with 925 passing yards.
The Bengals still have the potential for a second-place finish in the playoffs, but that would force the Titans to lose to the Texans on Sunday, which would be a major upset, and the Bills would secure the AFC East with a victory over the Jets and keep the Patriots away from the division crown. Considering it is very likely that Cincinnati will finish seeded No.3 or 4 and host the first round of the playoffs, no matter what, the incentive to play for the leaderboard should not be so high. .
There’s also the fact that much of the field remains unstable and the Bengals could face one of the seven remaining playoff teams that did not secure the division title.
Who are the Bengals at rest vs. the Browns?
The rest of the starters, however, remain a little uncertain. Taylor said in his press conference that the team haven’t had too many in-depth conversations about which starters will be missing for the game, if any beyond Burrow.
There are a few, however, who have already been kicked out of the game. Running back Joe Mixon has tested positive for COVID-19, and although he could technically come back from the roster in time for the game, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that he won’t play on Sunday.
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Cincinnati also won’t have left goalie Quinton Spain, who not only was added to the COVID-19 roster but also suffered a sprained ankle knocked him out of the Week 17 game with the Chiefs. Taylor said during his press conference that he didn’t expect this to keep him from entering for too long.
Taylor also said there was a possibility that rookie wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase would be rested on Sunday.
There were other Bengals placed on the COVID-19 roster earlier in the week, and their status remains unclear as to whether they will play. Among them were safety Vonn Bell, defensive end Trey Hendrickson and center Trey Hopkins.