The Bengals’ 2016 playoff hopes officially vanished when wide receiver A.J. Green went down with a hamstring injury at the beginning of the team’s Week 11 matchup against the Bills. That’s not to say Cincinnati doesn’t have enough talent to continue winning, but rather, Green is an invaluable player.
Even though the Bengals lost the past two games without Green, a myriad of players have put the team in position to win it at the end. The defense, led by solid performances from Vontaze Burfict, Carlos Dunlap and others has limited the points to the opposition, but a couple of offensive players have been stepping up in big ways since Green left.
As expected, tight end Tyler Eifert has been used in short and intermediate areas. Eifert finished with five catches for 68 yards and a nice touchdown grab in the back of the end zone against the Ravens on Sunday. Check out this dart thrown by Andy Dalton down the seam to Eifert on Sunday against Baltimore. It proves he’s still a total mismatch for linebackers.
Eifert didn’t totally light up the stat sheet the week prior against Buffalo (just three catches for 37 yards), but those catches were valuable. It also helped that another teammate has stepped up along with him the past two weeks without Green.
Rookie Tyler Boyd is beginning to round into form as the season wears on as well. Though he isn’t truly stretching the field for long bombs, he’s working the sticks and catching almost everything thrown his way. What’s more, many of his 11 catches during the past two weeks have been in contested coverage. Boyd finished with five catches for 62 yards in Week 12, after grabbing six for 54 yards and his first score against Buffalo.
With Green’s injury, it was well-known that these two players needed to step up the most in the Pro Bowler’s absence. In fact, when we asked our readers the question of who needed to step up the most, Boyd finished first in the poll with Eifert and Brandon LaFell going neck-and-neck for second place.
It’s not an ideal situation, especially with two straight losses and no one having a truly clear picture on when Green will return, but it bodes well as the Bengals are undoubtedly now looking toward 2017. Both Tylers are under contract next year, since the team exercised the fifth-year option on Eifert this offseason, so if they shore up some other issues, a productive crew will once again be together for the Bengals.