For the NFL’s elite, Week 18 has a weird feel to it. It’s the final game before the next part of the season. How much do you want to show? To play? What matters the most when four more important games stand between you and hoisting the Lombardi Trophy?
These are questions that seem to have different answers every year, and rightfully so. The Cincinnati Bengals had nothing to play for at the end of the regular season last year, and while they didn’t know it during Sunday’s game against the Baltimore Ravens, the case was basically the same this year. The only thing a win confirmed was an NFL official keeping a coin in his pocket after the game to determine where the teams would play next weekend.
This week did have importance to a few Bengals players for one reason or another, and their playing time has our attention in this week’s snap counts.
Trailing for essentially the entire game gave the Ravens (78) ample time on the field to try and make their makeshift offense work. Anthony Brown predictably struggled, and not having Kevin Zeitler, JK Dobbins, or Mark Andrews didn’t help, but the Ravens still ran the ball decently well and kept possessions alive. This got them ahead of the Bengals (66) in total snaps, as Cincinnati’s vanilla offense for much of the game (by design) led to a career-high seven punts from Drue Chrisman.
So close to escaping
The Bengals nearly finished the game injury-free, nearly. Alex Cappa (52) suffered an ankle injury late in the game and was soon declared out. The playoff ramifications are huge here as Cappa has been a rock at right guard this season, only missing snaps in garbage time through the first 15 games. The line is already without their starting right tackle in La’el Collins, so the right side is down to its reserves.
Max Scharping (14) is the immediate answer at Cappa’s spot. The club claimed the fourth-year veteran off waivers at the start of the season and has been an active reserve for most of the year. We didn’t see a ton of Scharping in pass protection in this game as the Bengals dropped back to pass four times with him at right guard.
Tune up at edge
There was no easing Sam Hubbard (66) back into things at defensive end. His first game back was as active as any he’s played this year. Joseph Ossai (46) and Cam Sample (44) rotated equally to give Hubbard short breaks here and there, but mainly to keep Trey Hendrickson (18) as fresh as possible.
Hendrickson’s fractured wrist is still very much healing, and there may’ve been an emphasis to not play him so much the week before the playoffs. But if he’s to be on this level of a pitch count, it might not be so bad. Hendrickson managed four pressures and two sacks in just 15 pass-rushing opportunities against Ronnie Stanley. He registered the same number of pressures two weeks ago against the New England Patriots on just 19 pass-rushing snaps.
It’s always welcoming to see the aggression and luscious red hair flow from the helmet of Hayden Hurst (48), who looked great in his first official game back from injury. Hurst looked like he was on his way to a full game played last week before everything went down. He ended up with five targets but just 14 receiving yards. The offense will certainly want to target him further down the field than his Average Depth of Target of 0.0 indicated.
Bengals snap counts vs. Ravens
|Stanley Morgan Jr.||WR||6||9%|
|Jessie Bates III||S||78||100%|