The Cincinnati Bengals had themselves a full-on statement win during Wild Card Weekend. They knocked off the Las Vegas Raiders in impressive fashion, with quarterback Joe Burrow leading the way with two passing touchdowns and 240-plus yards.
There was a little bit of controversy that took place regarding the referring. However, it was a good win for the Bengals nevertheless — their first playoff victory since 1991. They seemingly have all the momentum in the world heading into a Divisional Round date with the No. 1 seed Tennessee Titans.
The only problem, however, is that the injury bug is deciding to plague the team’s defensive line at the worst time.
The Bengals are dealing with notable injuries on their D-Line
Alongside Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase becoming one of the top offensive duos in football, one of the biggest reasons the Bengals experienced such a fast turnaround in 2021 is their new and improved defense. They added multiple pieces through free agency, and pretty much all of them have turned into viable pieces.
The defensive line, in particular, has turned into a big-time strength for Cincinnati. Former New Orleans Saints defensive end trey Hendrickson finished with a career-high 14.0 sacks during his first year with the Bengals.
The bad news for Cincy heading into the Divisional Round is that this new-and-improved D-Line is dealing with a string of injuries. Hendrickson is in concussion protocols, defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi is nursing a bad foot, and defensive tackle Mike Daniels is trending toward missing the Titans game with a groin injury.
That’s three starting defensive linemen who could all be out of action.
The Titans will look to take advantage of a weak defensive front
For quite some time now, the Titans have been without their workhorse running back, Derrick Henry. However, he was activated off injured reserve before the regular season finished, meaning he’s eligible to play against the Bengals.
Should he pass all his tests and prove healthy, the Titans will presumably go back to riding him like the franchise RB he is. Henry was on pace for another 2,000-yard season before his midseason foot injury.
A depleted defensive line would make life incredibly easy for Henry and the Titans. They could comfortably slam the ball up the middle of the field over and over against the Bengals’ backup defensive tackles.
Hendrickson potentially being unavailable also opens up the Tenessee passing attack, as Ryan Tannehill wouldn’t have to worry about getting sacked as much.
Joe Burrow and the Bengals offense need to show up
There’s still a chance Ogunjobi and Hendrickson are cleared in time for the Bengals’ game against Tenessee. However, it’s hard to imagine either player performing at 100%.
This means the pressure is diverted back toward the Bengals’ primary strength, their offense.
Burrow and his trio of elite WRs will need to put up points, while head coach Zac Taylor must call one of his better games from the sideline.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference.