Bengals vs Chiefs: Cincinnati deals with myriad injuries heading into Week 17

Cincinnati Bengals v Pittsburgh Steelers
Cincinnati Bengals v Pittsburgh Steelers / Justin K. Aller/GettyImages

The Cincinnati Bengals have lost Joe Burrow for the rest of the year, and they are currently sitting in last place in the AFC South with only two weeks left to go in the regular season. But if you think they have nothing to play for, you'll want to reconsider your position if you take a look at the way the Bengals have stayed competitive and interesting several weeks after watching their franchise quarterback hit injured reserve.

This is an important note for the Kansas City Chiefs because the Bengals are one of the few teams in the NFL who have played them tough in the Andy Reid years. Even with Jake Browning at the helm, the Bengals have reeled off three wins in their last four games against teams in the playoff chase—including the Jacksonville Jaguars, Minnesota Vikings, and Indianapolis Colts.

Given the way the Chiefs looked on Christmas Day against the Raiders, is anyone ready to argue that the Bengals should not be taken seriously? We didn't think so.

To get an accurate read on what's going down this season in Cincy, we asked our friend Leigh Oleszczak from Stripe Hype to tell us about the Bengals' motivations, their weaknesses, and who else is injured beyond Burrow.

With Burrow out, the Bengals have stayed unexpectedly competitive. Would you say the team is as motivated as ever coming into KC?

Oh absolutely. Earlier this year, the Chiefs beat the Bengals in the AFC title game and it was yet another close game so we know this game won't be a cakewalk for either side. The Bengals are also coming off a humiliating loss to Pittsburgh so they need to win this game if they want to remain alive in the playoff hunt.

What do you expect from Jake Browning against the Chiefs' defense?

I think he'll perform okay. Not sure he'll gift the Chiefs defense three interceptions like he did in Pittsburgh this past week, but I could see him throwing at least one pick. My guess would be about 250 yards, one or two touchdowns, and then one pick.

What other injuries are the Bengals dealing with at this point?

Ja'Marr Chase is someone you might be familiar with who is banged up. He missed last week's game with a shoulder injury. D.J. Reader is another big name who is injured and he's out for the season with a torn quad tendon. Reader is a huge part of the Bengals' run defense that was already struggling even with him in the trenches, so you can imagine how not having him out there has gone.

The Bengals need some help making the postseason but a win over K.C. would go a long way. Do you think the Bengals could rally and make some noise if they made it in?

It's been such a weird season in the NFL that truthfully, anyone could go on a run in the playoffs and win it all this year. The Bengals' biggest issue, however, is that their defense is nowhere close to being what it was the last two years. Their run defense is abysmal and the rest of the defense leads the league in explosive plays allowed. That's going to bite them big time if they do happen to make it to the postseason.

Who are some young Bengals who’ve stepped up this season that we should watch for?

Even though I've ragged on the defense in a few of my answers, D.J. Turner and Jordan Battle are two rookies to keep an eye on. I'd say Cam Taylor-Britt as well but he's been on IR. He could come back this week though. These three players will be chomping at the bit to pick off Patrick Mahomes.