The unfortunate truth of the NFL is that every team suffers injuries throughout the course of the season. There is never a good time for these injuries to hit a roster and some believe that certain injuries can be too big for a team to overcome. Be it a quarterback or defensive captain, teams need to scramble to pull the pieces back together to make a playoff run.
The Bengals fall into the latter category, as they lost their best defensive player for the year in lineman Geno Atkins. To say that there is a big hole to fill with Atkins' trip to Injured Reserve would be an understatement to the maximum degree. I'm not telling Bengals fans something that they don't already know, but what might be lost on the masses is the fact that almost every team in the playoff picture is dealing with similar issues this year.
When you look at the Bengals players who have landed on IR this year, names like Atkins, Taylor Mays, Leon Hall and Emmanuel Lamur all appear on the list. Though two of those aren't starters, all four will be missed in one form or another. There is a slight chance that Rey Maualuga, who isn't on IR bit is facing a two to four month absence window, could be back soon, but one shouldn't count on him being active against the Ravens this Sunday. With those issues, the once-strong unit will be without some of their bigger contributors.
All five of the above-mentioned players were or are slated to have big roles this year. Cincinnati did well do make the early loss of Lamur seem insignificant and Mays helped with that. The shame of the loss of the four outside of Lamur is that they really began to hit their stride towards the middle of the year. Atkins, after a slow start, had 6.5 sacks before his year ended and Mays really found a niche as a hybrid player. As bad as it sounds, other teams in the postseason hunt might be facing worse situations.
Have a look at the comprehensive list, provided by Pro Football Reference (I would have posted the chart, but the list is so extensive that it would have taken up a crazy amount of space). Go ahead--I'll wait while you scour it. This list doesn't include the recent injury to Packers quarterback, Aaron Rodgers which he suffered on Monday night against the Bears, but on it you'll see devastating injuries across the board. Green Bay, New England, and San Francisco have been particularly hard and in a similar capacity to the Bengals. What you'll also notice is how teams are and are not responding to those incurred injuries.
So while the injuries to the Bengals are devastating on paper, particularly with Hall and Atkins, other teams that are in the middle of the playoff race along with Cincinnati are suffering similar fates. The majority of the teams have been able to get by and rack up wins, while teams like Atlanta and Houston (preseason favorites to make deep playoff runs), have stumbled since.
The point is that the Bengals will need to prove to all of us that they have built as solid of a roster as many think that they have over the past few years. Some key pieces are still intact aside from those injuries, but a youngster like second-year defensive tackle Brandon Thompson as well as some other important youngsters will prove that they are up to the task of carrying a bigger workload than initially anticipated. It's in this aspect where the Bengals will be able to prove that they are a strong and deep enough team to overcome some of the biggest injury losses that they could have imagined.