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Bengals professionally tough for making the postseason without stars

Did the Bengals have a professional-grade season? They are off to the postseason for a fourth straight season and they did it missing many of their superstar players.

Marshall Faulk: This is it: it’s been quite a season here on GMC Playbook. Thanks for being creative and engaging with my questions. We’ve been talking all year about what it means to be GMC Professional Grade. Here’s my last question for you: Did your team have a Professional Grade season? If not, what will it take to get there next year?

For the fourth consecutive season, the fifth time in the last six years and the sixth time since 2009, the Cincinnati Bengals are heading to the postseason.

And if you look at how injuries have impacted their roster, they probably shouldn't be. What can you say? They're tough. They're professional. They're professionally tough (see what I did there?).

This season was played without many of the team's core superstars.

VONTAZE BURFICT only played five games this season with 29 tackles in 223 snaps. And it wasn't even that much if you examine it with any effort. Burfict only played two games this season where he contributed with more than 35 defensive snaps. This follows up a Pro Bowl campaign in 2013 as an emerging defensive leader and one of the league's top tacklers. The next man up philosophy focused on Vincent Rey, who now leads the team with 114 tackles.

A.J. GREEN was awarded a spot on the 2015 Pro Bowl, but he did it missing three games this season and a majority of two others (Atlanta, Denver). Mohamed Sanu covered Green earlier during the season but when Green has played, he's been dominating. Excluding the three games he's missed, Atlanta and Denver, had Green kept this pace, he'd finish with 98 receptions, 1,534 yards receiving and 10 touchdowns.

GENO ATKINS is still recovering from an ACL tear that he suffered in Miami during Halloween last year. This season has proven to be a down-year as expected, tying his rookie season career-low with three quarterback sacks. In fact, the team's number of sacks is down across the board but their total pressures are comparatively steady as any year.

GIOVANI BERNARD finished his rookie season with 1,209 yards from scrimmage. This year he's missed three games and was essentially replaced as the primary back by rookie Jeremy Hill. Despite all of that, Bernard's sophomore season has matched his rookie year and if we take the games this season and pace them out into a 16-game schedule, he'd surpass the yards rushing and yards from scrimmage.

TYLER EIFERT AND MARVIN JONES were expected to be starters and significant contributors in CIncinnati's passing game this season. Instead, Jones never played during the regular season and Eifert's season boiled down to three grabs before a dislocated elbow forced him onto short-term IR. In case you forgot, he's still out.

ANDRE SMITH only played nine games this season with a multitude of injuries, including a season-ending triceps tear against the Houston Texans. Smith was graded (by PFF) as the league's top right tackle in '12 and the sixth-best in '13.

OTHER STARTERS such as linebackers Emmanuel Lamur and Rey Maualuga, cornerbacks Leon Hall and Terence Newman and tight end Jermaine Gresham have all missed time.

You have THAT many stars and starters missing time, more times than not, the postseason is not on a team's itinerary. And that didn't slow the Bengals down at all.

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