This also means less rest and rehab for banged-up players, and both teams are hurting going into Round 1 of the Battle of Ohio. The most notable players injured for the Bengals are defensive end Carlos Dunlap, linebacker Rey Maualuga and tackle Andre Smith. Dunlap has practiced in a limited role on both Monday and Tuesday, but Maualuga and Smith both sat out during practice on each day.
Smith, who suffered a concussion during Sunday's win over the Steelers is in the NFL's concussion protocol, which is very hard to clear in a regular game week, let alone for a Thursday game.
If Smith is out Thursday, that would likely mean veteran tackle Eric Winston starts in his place. Winston took over there against the Steelers on Cincinnati's final two drives with Smith sidelined. Winston also started three games last season (including the playoffs) when Smith suffered a torn triceps muscle.
That doesn't mean Winston is a lock to start, however. Second-round rookie Jake Fisher has played in all seven games this season, though it's mostly been as an extra tackle and occasionally as a blocking tight end.
Maualuga is also looking likely to miss Thursday. He's dealing with a calf injury that forced him from Sunday's game. The obvious choice to get more snaps with him out is Vontaze Burfict, but he's still working his way back into game shape. He played 36 snaps Sunday and it's unclear how much his role may be increased with just four days rest after coming back from a year-long break due to injury.
That means we could see third-round rookie P.J. Dawson active and playing some snaps against the Browns. He was inactive this past week after playing in each of the first six games when Burfict was out. Dawson has played mostly on special teams and has just four tackles this season.
It's also possible we simply see more of veterans A.J. Hawk, Vinny Rey and Emmanuel Lamur to help offset Maualuga's loss, though Hawk and Lamur have played almost exclusively on the outside.