The biggest loss will be Vontaze Burfict. The stud linebacker will miss the game due to a concussion suffered in Sunday’s loss to the Steelers. Depending on how severe it is, we may have seen the last of Burfict this season, and that’s a massive loss to the linebacking unit.
With him out, Rey Maualuga figures to get the biggest snap increase this week. He’s been playing around 20 snaps per game this season, but with Burfict out, Vincent Rey will be getting more snaps at weakside linebacker, leaving Maualuga to get more snaps in the middle. Karlos Dansby could also see more snaps since he play in the middle or strongside.
How big of a dropoff is that? Pro Football Focus has Burfict ranked sixth overall in their linebacker rankings, while Maualuga is ranked 88th out of 91 eligible players. Vincent Rey is 18th, and Dansby is 69th.
The Bengals did call up P.J. Dawson from the practice squad this week, but don’t expect to see him get anything other than special teams snaps. Nick Vigil has rarely seen the field this year, even when Burfict and/or other linebackers were out, but he'd be more likely than Dawson to see snaps on defense.
On offense, not having Tyler Eifert will be about as big of a loss as Burfict. Eifert has once again been an elite tight end who is almost automatic when targeted in the red zone. He has four touchdowns in his last three games prior to last week, but a back injury popped up that will now sideline him Saturday.
Making matters worse is backup tight end Tyler Kroft is also out this week with a knee and ankle injury. With those two out, C.J. Uzomah is forced back into the No. 1 tight end role, a spot he held to begin this season when Eifert and Kroft were injured.
Uzomah was easily the best blocker of these three, and he wasn’t too shabby as a pass-catcher either. He caught 16 passes for 187 yards over his first five games, but has caught just one pass for six yards since.
Part of that is due to a calf injury he’s been dealing with for the past month. Still, not having Eifert simply as a threat on the field is a major loss for this offense.
Over the first six games without Eifert this year, the Bengals offense averaged just 18.2 points per game. From Weeks 7-14 with Eifert in the lineup, they averaged 22.7 points per game (we didn’t include Week 15 because that’s when Eifert injured his back). That includes essentially four games without A.J. Green.
The Bengals are effectively losing a field goal, if not more without Eifert on the field this Saturday, even if Green plays.
Another big offensive loss the Bengals suffered is Clint Boling. The left guard is out due to a shoulder injury, which has been affecting him since originally separating his shoulder in Week 4.
Not having a healthy Boling is part of why the offensive line has struggled this season, and losing him only makes things worse vs a Texans team that ranks No. 1 in total defense.
It looks like Andrew Whitworth will move down to left guard to replace Boling. That means Cedric Ogbuehi will now be the left tackle in Houston. That's a team player move by the veteran left tackle as he's essentially giving the Bengals a better look at the player they hope is his long-term replacement. It's also what you'd expect from a team-centric guy like Whitworth.
As big of a disaster as Ogbuehi has been at right tackle this season, there’s been little to suggest he’ll be any better on the left side. That makes the loss of Boling far worse since it leads to a worse player starting at a more important position. At this point, we can just hope the Ogbueh surprises us all!