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A.J. McCarron, Bengals Still in Shape for Playoff Run

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Despite losing to the Steelers and losing Andy Dalton, A.J. McCarron and the Bengals are still in shape to make a playoff run.

After Week 14, the Cincinnati Bengals look a lot different than they looked heading in. The Bengals lost to the Steelers, but the team suffered an even bigger loss, seeing quarterback Andy Dalton leave Sunday’s game with a finger injury. Dalton was playing like a legitimate MVP candidate all season and was right up there with Cam NewtonCarson Palmer and Tom Brady before going down.

After the injury, Dalton ended up in street clothes with a cast on his hand and backup A.J. McCarron finished the game. In McCarron’s first real taste of playing time, he actually played pretty well. McCarron threw for 280 yards with completion percentage of 68.8%, along with two touchdowns and two interceptions.

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Although the game ended in a 33-20 loss, the Bengals are still in good shape. The loss of Andy Dalton hurts the Bengals, but it does not end the season or kill the hopes of a playoff run. For one, Andy Dalton is not completely ruled out for the season. coach Marvin Lewis stated that the quarterback’s injury will be

evaluated on a week-to-week basis

. Essentially, this means that it is still entirely unknown how long Dalton will be out. With that said, there is still a possibility that he comes back. If Dalton ends up healthy enough to come back, the Bengals do not want to ease him back into action. Ideally, a victory over the Denver Broncos and another one against either the 49ers or Ravens could buy Dalton even more time to get healthy with a first-round playoff bye.

However, if Dalton is not going to come back at all, the Bengals are still just fine. McCarron is well capable of winning the division, ending the season with a winning record and most importantly, winning a playoff game. McCarron’s coaches and teammates have confidence in the second-year player, who will make his first career start in San Francisco this week.

Here’s what offensive coordinator Hue Jackson had to say on his game plan involving A.J. McCarron will be moving forward:

"“He’s going to start off doing what we need him to do to win. That’s what we pay him for. We pay him to win games. So whatever it takes for him to win, that’s what he’s going to do. If you guys think he’s going to turn around and hand it off 70 times to win a game, then you guys are mistaken. That’s not going to happen. That’s not going to happen.” Jackson said via The Enquirer"

While the people surrounding McCarron are confident in him, the quarterback is also very confident in himself. He’s made multiple self-comparisons to Tom Brady and was one of the greatest college quarterbacks in recent memory. With upcoming tilts against three backup quarterbacks, winning out is actually a possibility for the quarterback. And while it may not be likely, it’s still possible. McCarron has one of the best supporting casts in all of football and could clinch the AFC North with just a win over the Baltimore Ravens in Week 17. Hopefully by then, Andy Dalton will be healthy enough to take over for the Bengals heading into the playoffs. If not, the former Alabama quarterback will have a chance to prove himself as a potential long-term starting quarterback.

Next: A.J. McCarron: The Next Tom Brady?

The Cincinnati Bengals are still in shape for a playoff run, despite losing their franchise quarterback. In fact, if the Bengals can just win in Denver, they could have a chance to earn a first-round playoff bye. While losing Dalton isn’t ideal, this predicament could have ended up a lot worse for Cincinnati.

Now, it’s time to see what A.J. McCarron’s got.

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