To absolutely no one's surprise Monday, Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis tapped quarterback AJ McCarron to start next Monday night's game (8:30-Cincinnati's Channel 5 and ESPN) in Denver for what is essentially the first round of the playoffs. A win for the 11-3 Bengals over the 10-4 Broncos would lock up a play-off bye as well as the AFC North title.
With starting quarterback Andy Dalton sidelined by a broken thumb and in an unpredictable healing process, a win that would make the season finale against the Ravens at Paul Brown Stadium on Jan. 3 would be gold. McCarron held up well in Sunday's first NFL start, a 24-14 win in San Francisco in which he had no interceptions and directed three short-field TD drives.
"We were pleased with how AJ played yesterday,' Lewis said in his Monday news conference. "He did a good job managing the offense and got us in the right looks. He did a good job throwing the football and did a good job not making a negative play . . . and protecting the football, which was the main emphasis going into the game for him."
Also Monday, offensive coordinator Hue Jackson called for his unit to play better around McCarron after producing a season-low 242 yards and with a date looming against a Denver defense ranked No. 1 in everything.
"The (Bengals) defense did their part,' Jackson said.
DENVER QB: The Bengals QB situation is nowhere near as complex as what Denver has. f Andy Dalton is week-to-week, then on Monday Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak said Brock Osweiler is day-to-day after injuring his non-throwing shoulder Sunday against the Steelers. Kubiak didn't reveal results of the X-ray, but said indications are Osweiler is simply sore.
And there's Peyton Manning, the Hall-of-Famer dealing with a foot\ problem the last month, the one that knocked him out of practice last Friday.
"We're starting over—starting from scratch. It's no different from last week. We'll be dealing with Brock and see how he's doing physically. I'll visit with Peyton," Kubiak said. We'll have a plan in place when we get to Wednesday, but right now my thoughts are with the team and trying to get through the corrections and move forward."
Kubiak doesn't connect the Steelers' comeback to Osweiler's injury.
"I don't think so with some of the things that I saw him do," Kubiak said. "I think, if anything, he really struggled with a certain way that we ran the ball and trying to hand the ball off with that arm. I agree with you. I think we were in position to do some of the same things that we did in the first half. We just didn't do them and I'm not just talking about him. I'm talking about as a group."
Cincinnati Bengals travel to take on the San Francisco 49ers in week 15 of the regular season.