Marquee Week 2 matchup shows NFL doesn’t trust Joe Burrow to stay healthy

The Chiefs and Bengals will play early in the season this time around.
Cincinnati Bengals Joe Burrow walks off the field after the Kansas City Chief beat the Bengals 23-20
Cincinnati Bengals Joe Burrow walks off the field after the Kansas City Chief beat the Bengals 23-20 / Sam Greene/The Enquirer / USA TODAY

Last year, the NFL could have pitted the Kansas City Chiefs and Cincinnati Bengals against each other in the regular season opener and everyone would have been A-okay with it. The two had established quite a rivalry over a short period of time with the Bengals knocking off the Chiefs twice during the 2021 season and then again in the 2022 regular season.

KC had the last laugh, however, beating Cincinnati in the 2023 AFC Championship and going on to win the Super Bowl. The good guys took down the Bengals again during the 2023 regular season but that match-up had a key player missing. Joe Burrow missed the game after sustaining a season-ending wrist injury a month and a half prior.

Well, the NFL might have learned something by scheduling the Chiefs and Bengals match-up so late in the year and that's not to leave a great potential match-up for late in the year if one of the stars is injury-prone. Patrick Mahomes vs. Jake Browning didn't have nearly the same ring to it as Mahomes vs. Burrow did and while the game was competitive, it wasn't anywhere near as appealing as it'd have been with Burrow quarterbacking the Bengals.

To make up for last year's mishap, the NFL schedule-makers have bumped this marquee match-up to Week 2 and this, at least to me, screams that they're worried Burrow won't be able to stay healthy if they put the game later in the season. In four NFL seasons, Burrow has had season-ending injuries in two of them. Now in the two where he's remained healthy, he's helped get Cincinnati to at least the AFC Championship Game.

NFL schedule-makers don't want us to miss another Mahomes vs. Burrow match-up due to injury

Every Chiefs/Bengals game since Cincinnati drafted Burrow with the first overall pick in 2020 has been a banger but it loses its appeal if he's not out there. That's why the NFL was wise to put this match-up just two weeks into the regular season.

The Chiefs open their 2024 campaign against the Baltimore Ravens and then host the Bengals the very next week so it's an incredibly difficult schedule to start the year. The Ravens also could have been scheduled early due to Lamar Jackson's injuries, as he had missed an extended period of time during the 2021 and 2022 seasons so ensuring we get those Mahomes vs. Jackson and Mahomes vs. Burrow match-ups was clearly a point of emphasis here with the schedule-makers.

It's a tough start to the year for Kansas City but as the Chiefs know, to be the best, you gotta beat the best. That's what they'll look to do to kick off the 2024 season.