The Cincinnati Bengals received terrible news on Friday, as their star quarterback, Joe Burrow, will need to have season-ending surgery. Burrow tore a wrist ligament on Thursday Night Football in Week 11 against the Ravens. His backup, Jake Browning, finished out the game and appears to be the top candidate to finish the season as the starting QB. A.J. McCarron is his backup, and could also see time if Browning were to falter.
How injury impacts Ja’Maar Chase, Tee Higgins, Joe Mixon
When assessing the Bengals fantasy players as we move on without Joe Burrow, we have to look at QB Jake Browning, as his play is the main factor in how the offense runs as a whole. The good news is that Browning did not look awful in relief of Burrow against the Ravens in Week 11.
Browning completed 8-of-14 passes for 68 yards and a touchdown, while adding 40 rushing yards on four carries. He did end up taking three sacks, but had no turnovers. It was a good start coming into a game against a tough Ravens defense with no practice reps with the first team.
Browning targeted Trent Irwin 6 times, Ja’Marr Chase 4, Tanner Hudson 2, Joe Mixon 2, Tyler Boyd 1, and Shedrick Jackson 1. His touchdown pass was to Chase, while Irwin saw the most receiving yards and receptions from the backup.
Tee Higgins was out with a hamstring injury and his return date isn’t known, but he asn’t put on I.R. and has now missed two games. If he can return next week against the Steelers, he would take his starting job back from Irwin.
We can expect Browning to have his troubles, which will slow down the offense, but we also don’t have to totally give up on the Bengals starters for fantasy.
Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins
Chase is too good to sit, even with Browning in at quarterback. He won’t have nearly the upside as he has had with Burrow, but he also should be leaned on by Browning, which could mean more passes forced to him. He will remain a start in all formats for the time being.
Once Higgins returns from injury, he will be worth starting in good matchups, but we will need to take him game by game. He already has had some trouble putting up numbers this season and Browning just makes him that much riskier.
Tyler Boyd, Trent Irwin
Boyd is likely to be a recommended fantasy sit unless he can prove otherwise moving forward. He has had just one solid game all year and in a small sample size, he just saw one target from Browning.
Irwin could have some fantasy upside if Higgins remains out, as he and Browning appear to have a connection that might be born out of their time together as backups. We can’t expect him to lead the team in targets moving forward, but there’s no doubt Browning looked for him on Thursday night.
Mixon will likely see more stacked boxes and fewer goal line opportunities, but could make up for it in volume and receiving targets. He loses upside like the rest of the fantasy starters, but remains a must start in most leagues.