Bengals’ Andy Dalton, Sitting Out on Saturday, Could Still Return

Quarterback Andy Dalton, left, congratulated A.J. McCarron after the Bengals scored against the 49ers last month. Dalton’s cast was removed this week.

Tony Avelar/Associated Press

The Cincinnati Bengals have had a season to remember, winning their first eight games and finishing 12-4, their best record since 1988. But in a wild-card playoff game on Saturday night, they will be underdogs at home to the Pittsburgh Steelers, whom they beat for the A.F.C. North crown. The reason is the absence of their starting quarterback, Andy Dalton, one of the league’s top passers this season.

Dalton fractured the thumb on his throwing hand in a loss to the Steelers in Week 14. Although his cast has been removed, he has been ruled inactive for Saturday’s game, which means the backup A. J. McCarron will start.

That Dalton would be considered so vital to the team at this point in the season would have been a surprise to many Bengals fans in the off-season….

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