Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Burrow Says He'll Play Through Pinkie Injury, But Logan Wilson Will Reportedly Miss Time
Cincinnati (7-5) missed an opportunity Sunday with a 41-22 home loss to the Los Angeles Chargers that kept the Ravens (8-4) alone in first place in the AFC North.
The game took its toll on the Bengals physically. Quarterback Joe Burrow suffered a dislocated pinkie finger on this throwing hand on Cincinnati's first drive, but he played through the injury and has vowed to keep doing so.
Meanwhile, starting inside linebacker Logan Wilson, who leads the Bengals in tackles (92) and interceptions (four), reportedly dislocated his shoulder. According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, Wilson will miss time.
Burrow still threw the ball accurately Sunday (24 for 40, 300 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions) and said the injury won't sideline him when Cincinnati hosts the San Francisco 49ers in Week 14.
"I'm not going to miss any games because of it," Burrow said via Ben Baby of ESPN.com. "That's not something that's going to happen."
However, Burrow was in obvious discomfort and the training staff initially taped his finger and offered him several gloves to try. Burrow eventually discarded the tape and the gloves, saying it was easier to throw without them.
"It was a decision to make it feel better or continue to somewhat throw the ball," Burrow said. "I decided to be able to throw the ball."
The injury will make it more important for the Bengals to protect Burrow, who is the second-most sacked quarterback in the NFL (36) behind only Lamar Jackson (37).
The loss dropped the Bengals to the seventh and final playoff seed in the AFC, and Head Coach Zac Taylor said he must do a better job after several clock management issues Sunday.
"Horrific (management) by me," Taylor said via Si.com. "The communication is critical [and] it's got to be crisper from me to make sure that we're all on the same page and make sure we're all getting one call."
Pittsburgh Steelers: Big Ben Tables Retirement Talk Until After Season
There was plenty of talk about Ben Roethlisberger's future over the weekend after ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that the quarterback had told some former teammates that he expect this to be his last season.
Following Sunday's game, Roethlisberger said he had not been spreading his retirement plans, and that he wouldn't until the season was over.
"I haven't told everybody that," Roethlisberger said. "Honestly, we just got done with this game, I'm exhausted, and we play in a couple of hours, it feels like. My focus is on Minnesota and what we have to do to get ready. I'll address any of that stuff after the season. I've always been a one game at a time and a one season at a time person, and I'm going to stay that way."
Roethlisberger has taken plenty of criticism this season, but on Sunday he was still at this best in the clutch, leading the Steelers to two touchdowns and a field goal in their final three drives. Another loss would have made the rest of the season more difficult for the Steelers, but a win lifted them over .500 (6-5-1) and kept them very much in the divisional race.
How Roethlisberger plays will have a huge impact on whether Pittsburgh makes the postseason or not. Head Coach Mike Tomlin said speculation about Roethlisberger's future will not be a distraction.
"Ben doesn't allow it to become an issue," Tomlin said. Tomlin said via Pro Football Talk. "Ben has been pretty solid in terms of his expressions that he's singularly focused on what we're doing now. He'll deal with those things on the other side of his journey, and I'm with him on it. So it's not a distraction. I thought it was funny that it was seemingly a story this weekend, to be honest with you."
The Steelers have a short week before visiting the Minnesota Vikings on Thursday night.
Cleveland Browns: GM Expects Baker Mayfield at His Best for Stretch Run
The Browns had a bye Sunday and face the unusual situation of facing the Ravens in back-to-back games. After losing to Baltimore in Week 12, the Browns rested and regrouped, which should be good for quarterback Baker Mayfield, who has played through numerous injuries this season.
Cleveland had an extra week to prepare for Baltimore and the Browns (6-6) are struggling offensively, averaging 10 points over their last three games. But General Manager Andrew Berry has not lost confidence in Mayfield, who he expects to pick up his play down the stretch.
"He's had stretches this year where he has played well for us, and look, the reality of it is that he's worked through injuries, no different than other players on our roster," Berry said via The Akron Beacon-Journal. "I know what he expects of himself and what we expect of him whenever he's on the field to perform at a capable level, a winning level, and we expect him to play his best stretch of the year here after the bye."
The Browns have dealt with their share of drama this season, headlined by wide receiver Odell Beckham's discontent before he was traded to the Los Angeles Rams. Cleveland entered the season with high expectations after making the playoffs last season, and Berry said the next five games would show him something about his team's ability to handle adversity.
"The next five games really provide us with a really valuable opportunity," Berry said. "I think oftentimes people talk about adversity or challenges really when it's convenient. Adversity is universally important for growth. I think that's something that we need as a team and we need as an organization, and I think the next five games provide us with a valuable opportunity to grow and work through what will be a very difficult stretch."