Sunday's inactive list for the Bengals underscored the challenges against the 7-1 Saints at chilly Paul Brown Stadium.
With Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green and back-up Josh Malone (hamstring) out, head coach Marvin Lewis deployed three wide receivers in his starting lineup that included receivers (John Ross and Alex Erickson) that have combined for 15 catches, 123 yards and two touchdowns this season. When the Bengals won in New Orleans four years ago, Green had six catches for 127 yards and a touchdown.
The Saints, of course, are a much different team, in large part, because of their front lines that have fueled their seven-game winning streak. Pro Bowl quarterback Drew Brees has been sacked just nine times, running back Alvin Kamara is averaging well over four yards per carry and the Saints are ranked No. 1 against the rush.
The Bengals defense, for the moment, is reduced, with linebackers Vontaze Burfict (hip) and Nick Vigil (knee) and slot cornerback Darqueze Dennard (neck) inactive. They face Brees' record 76.3 completion percentage that includes just one interception with a unit ranked last in yards and third-down percentage. But the Bengals are banking on their ability to turn it over. Their next interception is their 11th of the season and 14th turnover and ties last season's output in both categories.
Also inactive for the Bengals Sunday are right guard Alex Redmond (hamstring) and tight end Tyler Kroft (foot) with Trey Hopkins expected to start for Redmond.