The AFC playoff field is crowded with 14 teams within one game of the final playoff spot. But things may have just gotten significantly easier for the Indianapolis Colts.
Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor announced on Friday that quarterback Joe Burrow suffered a torn ligament in his right wrist during the Thursday night matchup versus the Baltimore Ravens. As a result, Burrow will miss the rest of the 2023 season.
An Amazon Prime camera caught Burrow attempting to throw a pass along the sidelines after he sustained the injury during the second quarter. But after trying to throw, Burrow shook his head, as he was unable to deliver the ball.
The Bengals ruled out Burrow for the remainder of the game after halftime.
In his postgame press conference, Taylor said Burrow had a sprained wrist. But further testing revealed a far worse injury which could change the AFC playoff picture.
The Bengals were already on the outside of the top seven seeds in the AFC. However, they are a team the past two years that played its best football after Thanksgiving. Cincinnati appeared to be trending in that direction again this season. They won four straight in October and early November.
But the Bengals have now lost two in a row and will presumably start rookie Jake Browning behind center the rest of the season. Browning went 8-for-14 for 68 yards and a touchdown in relief of Burrow against the Ravens.
The Colts will meet the Bengals in Week 14. Before that, the Bengals have matchups against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Jacksonville Jaguars.
Both of those teams have winning records. Nothing is guaranteed in the NFL, but it's not a stretch to predict the Bengals will lose both of those contests without Burrow.
They will then come limping into the matchup versus the Colts at 5-7.
If the Bengals don't win one of their next two games, the Colts could face just two more opponents with winning records the rest of the season.
Cincinnati has other great players besides Burrow. Shane Steichen and the Colts won't be able to take them for granted.
But the Bengals will be far less scary to face with Browning behind center, and by then, they may be on the very fringes of the AFC wild card race.
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