Will Andy Dalton's thumb injury derail the Bengals season?
Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton fractured his right thumb in Sunday's loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Dalton suffered the injury making a tackle following an interception on the Bengals first possession of the game.
Andy Dalton headed to locker room with thumb injury after making this horrible decision: pic.twitter.com/2Svu4PKYSK— Deadspin (@Deadspin) December 13, 2015
Reports after the game indicated that Dalton could miss the rest of the season. The two-time Pro Bowl quarterback met with doctors Monday and it appears surgery will not be required. That seems like good news but there is no definitive timetable for Dalton's return. The best-case scenario is Dalton returns during the regular season and is close to 100 percent for the playoffs. The worst-case scenario is that AJ McCarron leads the Bengals into the postseason.
Compared to McCarron, what does having Dalton mean to Cincinnati's Super Bowl chances?
Starting with the regular season, the difference between Dalton and McCarron is 5.0 points per game and nearly half a win on average for the Bengals over the season's final three games. This could prove crucial as Cincinnati tries to secure a first round bye. With McCarron starting, the Bengals chances of beating the Broncos in Denver (Week 16) decrease from 46.3 percent to 34.8 percent, a game that will likely determine which team gets to rest during the Wild Card round.
Even if Dalton were to miss the remainder of the regular season, Cincinnati is a lock to make the playoffs. The Bengals are greater than 99 percent likely to reach the postseason regardless of who is starting at quarterback but their chance of winning the division decrease from 92.6 percent to 84.8 percent.
With Dalton healthy, Cincinnati has a 9.1 percent chance to win the Super Bowl, the 5th best odds in the NFL. With McCarron the Bengals' Super Bowl chances decrease but only slightly to 8.0 percent (still 5th best). When McCarron entered the league he received a draft grade indicative of a player who could be an adequate starter. On Sunday, filling in for Dalton, McCarron threw for 280 yards and two touchdowns.
Bengals fans will hope that Dalton is ready for the playoffs but if McCarron has to start, Cincinnati could still win the Super Bowl.