The San Francisco 49ers are dealing with numerous injury issues, but this weekend, they face a Cincinnati Bengals team dealing with its own share of problems. The most notable name is Andy Dalton, but the Bengals have several important players on both sides of the ball that are questionable at best for this weekend.
QB Andy Dalton
Dalton will be a big loss for Cincinnati due to his fractured thumb. There is speculation he could return later this year, but he won't be playing on Sunday. It sounds like AJ McCarron will get his first career start, but I imagine the Bengals will bring in a veteran backup before the week is through. Dalton was on pace for the best numbers of his career, so even if the offense isn't changed, there will still be some significant changes.
TE Tyler Eifert
He suffered a concussion on Sunday, and will have to go through the protocol before he can be cleared to play on Sunday. The third year tight end is having a great year, with 48 receptions for 564 yards and 12 touchdowns. A.J. Green remains the biggest playmaker for that offense, but losing Eifert would be a big blow for McCarron.
S George Iloka/CB Adam Jones
The Bengals secondary could be in trouble on Sunday. Jones missed Week 14 with a foot injury, while Iloka left the game with a groin injury. Jones was a DNP all three practices last week, so Wednesday's practice participation report will give us important insight into his potential status. Iloka missed Wednesday and Thursday practices last week due to his groin injury, before participating Friday. He was active, but aggravated the injury.
The 49ers are currently a 4.5-point home underdog to the Bengals. After last week's loss to the Browns, it is not surprising heavy money is currently going against the 49ers. The look-ahead line for this game last week was a touchdown, but the Dalton injury dropped it to four. I don't expect much movement on this barring any unexpected late action.
And yet, I am tempted by the 49ers as 4.5-point underdogs. They could still go into this game and get crushed, but the 49ers at home are generally a different team than on the road. Would it be all that surprising to see them bounce back from the Browns game with a solid performance? I suppose they could pack it in and get crushed again, but I just don't see that happening. Whether they have enough in them to spring the upset is another question entirely, but this Bengals team will be missing at least one or two critical cogs. This is not the same team that opened the season 10-2. That doesn't mean the 49ers are winning this game, but the dynamic has changed considerably.