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Bengals may be without two starting DEs against Bills on ‘MNF’ in Week 17

As of now, Cincinnati’s sack leaders are down for the count, and a return date hasn’t been determined

NFL: DEC 26 Ravens at Bengals Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The AFC East-leading Buffalo Bills will face the AFC North-leading Cincinnati Bengals on Monday Night Football in Week 17, and while the game could be a preview of an AFC playoff matchup, things just got a little harder for the team out of Ohio.

Bengals defensive end Sam Hubbard suffered a calf injury in Cincinnati’s Week 15 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and is now expected to miss a few weeks, with Bengals head coach Zac Taylor saying that the team hopes to have him back in time for the playoffs.

Taylor’s statement, while void of any specifics on what the calf injury entails, indicates that the team doesn’t expect to have Hubbard on the field when they play the Bills in prime time on January 2.

The injury to Hubbard, who leads the Bengals with 6.5 sacks and is also responsible for 56 tackles — 30 of them of the solo variety — is compounded by the fact that the team is already missing Hubbard’s counterpart. While Hubbard usually lines up on the left side of the line, the team’s right defensive end, Trey Hendrickson, is currently recovering from a fractured wrist.

Hendrickson, who is right behind Hubbard on the team’s sack leader board with six of his own, fractured his wrist in Cincinnati’s Week 14 victory over the Cleveland Browns. While the Bengals haven’t placed the defensive end on Injured Reserve, he is considered week-to-week, and a timeline for his return hasn’t been determined yet.

Being down both starting defensive ends will make it more difficult for the Bengals to contain Josh Allen and the Bills’ offense. Keeping Allen off balance and making him uncomfortable could be a challenge, as aside from Hendrickson and Hubbard, the next-best sack total on the team belongs to defensive tackle B.J. Hill, who has notched just two on the year. A comfortable Allen could make for a long night for cornerbacks Eli Apple and Cam Taylor-Britt, who will be tasked with containing the Bills’ wide receivers.