Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow is expected to start Monday night against the Los Angeles Rams despite a calf strain that’s hampered him through the first two weeks of the season, according to multiple reports.
The Bengals reportedly made the decision as they weigh Burrow’s injury recovery vs. the realities of an 0-2 start that’s already blunted their postseason hopes. Jake Browning is Burrow’s backup. The 27-year-old has thrown a single NFL pass in his career.
Burrow injured his calf in July on the second day of training camp and was diagnosed with a strain. He sat out the rest of training camp and didn’t play in the preseason. He’s played the first two weeks of the regular season, but has clearly been hobbled by the injury amid the 0-2 start.
In losses to the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens, Burrow’s completed 41 of 72 (56.9%) passes for 304 yards (4.2 yards per attempt) with two touchdowns and one interception. This is from a quarterback who entered the season with MVP buzz on an offense expected to be one of the NFL’s best.
Instead, the Bengals were held out of the end zone in a 24-3 Week 1 loss to the Browns and needed a special-teams touchdown to reach 24 points in last week’s 27-24 loss to the Ravens. All-Pro wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase has seen his production dip dramatically while tallying 10 catches for 70 yards without a touchdown through two games.
The 0-2 hole is made even worse for Cincinnati with both losses coming in AFC North games. The Browns, Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers, meanwhile, are all of to 2-1 starts, putting a division title in jeopardy in Cincinnati just three weeks into the season.
At his best, Burrow is a Pro Bowl caliber quarterback with MVP upside. He completed 68.3% of his passes for 279.7 yards per game (7.4 yards per attempt) with 35 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 16 starts in 2022. He’s led the Bengals to the Super Bowl and the AFC championship game in his first two NFL seasons.
The decision to continue to play Burrow is a gamble the Bengals feel is worth taking with their postseason already in peril.