Sep 21, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals tackle Andre Smith (71) against the Tennessee Titans at Paul Brown Stadium. The Bengals won 33-7. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
The 2014 Cincinnati Bengals stand at 7-3-1 and in control of their own playoff path, despite the fact that they have had big troubles on defense (against the run AND the pass) and in the passing game. The one constant for the Bengals has been a strong running game, which hardly missed a beat when starter Giovani Bernard injured his hip, thanks in large part to Jeremy Hill. The BIG constant in the Cincy running game, though, has been right tackle Andre Smith, who was lost for the season on Sunday with a torn triceps muscle that could prove to be the most devastating injury of the year for the Bengals.
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With Smith manning the strong side, the Bengals rank fifth in the NFL in carries and seventh in total rushing yards, while quarterback Andy Dalton has been sacked only 12 times. The Bengals 1.2 sacks allowed per game rank third in the NFL.
When Smith went down on Sunday, Marshall Newhouse took his place on the line and did fine against J.J. Watt. Newhouse, though, has spent most of his career as a left tackle with the Green Bay Packers, and they liked him enough to let him walk in free agency last March.
Dalton has been wildly inconsistent this season, which makes it all the more important for the running game to stay on track, especially with four of their last five games coming in the cold weather. That task already loomed as monumental thanks to the top-10 run defense of the Pittsburgh Steelers (twice!) and the top-two unit of the Denver Broncos. If Newhouse can’t do a reasonable job of picking up the slack, Smith’s torn triceps could rip a hole through the Bengals season.