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Monday NFL preview: Bengals, Patriots have major injury issues

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Dalton to miss Week 15 due to thumb injury (0:57)

Bob Holtzman discusses the condition of Bengals QB Andy Dalton after suffering a fractured thumb against the Steelers. (0:57)

NFL Nation reporters look ahead to what Monday has in store for each team.

AFC EAST

Buffalo Bills: The Bills won't be playing for much over their final three games, as the Chiefs, Steelers and Jets control the AFC wild-card race and the Bills will need a miracle to get back in the pack. In that sense, Monday's news conference with coach Rex Ryan will begin the postmortem look at the 2015 Bills season, which has been defined by an excess of penalties and a defense that took a significant step back from last season. -- Mike Rodak

Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins will play the Giants in their first and only Monday Night Football game of the season. All eyes will be on quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who struggled last week and threw for a season-low 86 yards against the Ravens. New York entered Week 14 with the NFL's worst-ranked pass defense. Therefore, Tannehill is expected to have some success. -- James Walker

New England Patriots: The injuries continue to pile up for the New England Patriots as running back LeGarrette Blount left Sunday's game against the Texans with a hip injury and didn't return. He had been productive up to that point, with 10 carries for 53 yards. His primary replacement is four-year veteran Brandon Bolden. The Patriots will be monitoring Blount's status, along with that of safety Devin McCourty (ankle), linebacker Jonathan Freeny (hand) and defensive tackle Dominique Easley. -- ESPN.com staff

New York Jets: Rookie wide receiver Devin Smith, who suffered a potentially serious knee injury in Sunday's win, will have an MRI on Monday to determine the extent of the damage. Don't be surprised if he's done for the season. Aside from playing the No. 3/4 role at receiver, Smith also is a gunner on the punt-coverage team. -- Rich Cimini

AFC NORTH

Baltimore Ravens: Jimmy Clausen might have played himself into being the Ravens' starting quarterback for the final three games. He threw for a career-high 274 yards filling in for the injured Matt Schaub (chest). Asked whether he will evaluate the quarterback position going forward, coach John Harbaugh said, "I don't know right now. We'll see." -- Jamison Hensley

Cincinnati Bengals: Andy Dalton's regular season may be over. The Bengals will be anxiously awaiting the findings of a hand specialist who is set to meet with the quarterback Monday morning, a day after Dalton broke his right thumb in Cincinnati's loss to the Steelers. Sources have already told ESPN's Bob Holtzman the fear is that Dalton's year is done. At best, they hope he will be back for the playoffs. For now, all that is certain is that AJ McCarron will be starting next week at San Francisco. -- Coley Harvey

Cleveland Browns: Johnny Manziel had his best overall game as a Browns quarterback in the win over the 49ers, throwing for 270 yards and playing smart. The challenge gets bigger the next three games, but Manziel was able to ignore the outside noise and play well -- to his credit. -- Pat McManamon

Pittsburgh Steelers: With a physical win over Cincinnati out of the way, the Steelers have won nine straight games in December dating back to 2013. That's a positive trend for a team that is following the Jets' and Chiefs' scores every Sunday, immersed in the charged-up AFC wild-card race. All three teams jumped to 8-5 with convincing wins. "We're just trying to keep pace," defensive end Cam Heyward said. -- Jeremy Fowler

AFC SOUTH

Houston Texans: Texans quarterback Brian Hoyer was evaluated for a concussion during the fourth quarter of Sunday night's game against the Patriots. He might be in serious jeopardy if he has suffered another brain injury. Prior to Sunday's game, Hoyer had four concussions while playing football -- one in high school, one in college, one his rookie year in the NFL and one Nov. 16 of this year against the Bengals. -- Tania Ganguli

Indianapolis Colts: Colts coach Chuck Pagano said the team should know more about quarterback Matt Hasselbeck's injured ribs on Monday. Hasselbeck left Sunday's loss to Jacksonville in the fourth quarter when he fell to the ground hard after he was pushed out of bounds by a Jaguars defender. Sunday was the second straight game that Hasselbeck left early with an injury. He left the Colts' Week 13 game against PIttsburgh with a neck and rib injury. -- Mike Wells

Jacksonville Jaguars: One downer from the Jaguars' 51-16 victory over the Colts: Running back T.J. Yeldon suffered a sprained knee, and his status for next week's game against Atlanta is up in the air. Yeldon got banged up a good bit against the Colts. He had a groin injury going into the game and left the game briefly in the first half with an ankle injury. -- Mike DiRocco

Tennessee Titans: Coach Mike Mularkey said he saw some loaf plays against the Jets he will be looking into as the Titans dissect a terrible showing. The main one was from cornerback Perrish Cox, who didn't try to tackle running back Bilal Powell at the goal line on a 16-yard catch-and-run. Cox said whatever he did there, the running back was going to wind up in the end zone. That should make for an interesting day-after conversation between player and coach. -- Paul Kuharsky

AFC WEST

Denver Broncos: How does a team lose a game when its defense surrenders 126 total yards and the opponent's touchdown drive is all of 11 yards? Broncos coach Gary Kubiak put it on his offense Sunday after a 15-12 loss to the Raiders, specifically on his offensive line when he said "we lost the line of scrimmage." Raiders outside linebacker Khalil Mack had five sacks, the Broncos rushed for just 34 yards and Brock Osweiler ended up throwing the ball 51 times. That's not the recipe for offensive success for the Broncos, and if they can't find a solution up front anytime soon any postseason appearance will be a short one. -- Jeff Legwold

Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs swept their season series from the Chargers for the second straight year with Sunday's win. They hadn't won four straight from San Diego in more than 20 years. The Chiefs beat the Chargers eight straight times in the regular season from 1990 through 1993. -- Adam Teicher

Oakland Raiders: As long as Nate Allen is out, TJ Carrie is going to replace him at safety. Allen, who missed two months earlier this season with a knee injury, missed Sunday's game at Denver with the same issue. As he did earlier in the season, Carrie moved from cornerback to safety. That meant more playing time for replaced starter D.J. Hayden at cornerback. -- Bill Williamson

San Diego Chargers: With the Chargers limited to three points for the second time this season by the Chiefs, coach Mike McCoy lamented the fact that his team failed to get into the end zone in a game in which his defense held Kansas City to just 10 points on the road. "When you only give up that many points, we've got to find a way to win that game," McCoy said. -- Eric D. Williams

NFC EAST

Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys have scored eight touchdowns in 68 drives over seven games with Matt Cassel at quarterback. Coach Jason Garrett did not sound like a coach ready to make a move to a fourth different starter this season in Kellen Moore after Sunday's loss to Green Bay. Garrett said the Cowboys "believe he can win games for us." Jerry Jones said if the coaches make a decision it's one that has to be made immediately so Moore can have enough time to practice with the first team. Given that it is a short week before the Cowboys play Saturday against the New York Jets, a move is unlikely. -- Todd Archer

New York Giants: Can the Giants keep pace with Washington and Philadelphia in the putrid NFC East race? It could come down to their defense's ability to stop the Dolphins in the second half on Monday Night Football. They'll be without top linebacker Devon Kennard, who stayed home with a foot injury, and they'll need Jason Pierre-Paul and the pass rush to build on last week's encouraging effort. -- Dan Graziano

Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles seem to be coming together as a team in the season's final month. After all of the roster upheaval during the offseason, it was perhaps inevitable that the team would take a little time to jell. The return of quarterback Sam Bradford two weeks ago helped bring the team together. That newfound chemistry will be tested by the NFC West-leading Cardinals next Sunday. -- Phil Sheridan

Washington Redskins: The Redskins could be looking for another tight end to pair with Jordan Reed. Derek Carrier will undergo an MRI on his right knee Monday, but he exited the stadium Sunday with a protective device on his right leg. Carrier has been OK for Washington, but his absence alters some of what the Redskins can do or want to do. They've had to use tackles to replace him in games, but that limits some of their options. -- John Keim

NFC NORTH

Chicago Bears: With no real playoff hopes, the Bears return to work on Monday with an eye toward their rematch with 8-5 Minnesota. At 5-8, the Bears need a miraculous run to avoid finishing with the franchise's fourth losing record since 2005. The only encouraging news in Chicago's loss to Washington is that nobody got hurt. The Bears will re-evaluate safety Antrel Rolle (knee), nickelback Bryce Callahan (quadriceps) and linebacker Pernell McPhee (knee) next week. Rolle appears close to coming back after a three-game absence. -- Jeff Dickerson

Detroit Lions: The Lions clinched another losing season Sunday in a loss to the Rams and now the march to the end of the year truly begins. The Lions have three games left and then the questions will really start as to who will be running this organization as the general manager and head coach in 2016 and beyond. Those are answers that should start to be sorted out over the next month while Detroit plays out the string on the field. -- Michael Rothstein

Green Bay Packers: Running back Eddie Lacy rewarded coach Mike McCarthy's faith in him. A week after Lacy was demoted for missing curfew, McCarthy put him back in the lineup, and Lacy responded with a season-high 124 rushing yards in Sunday's win over the Cowboys. "I've always believed in Eddie," McCarthy said. "We all make a couple bad decisions along the way and that doesn't change my opinion of Eddie, any player. So he needed to refocus and he did that." It sure looks as though Lacy will be the Packers' workhorse down the stretch. -- Rob Demovsky

Minnesota Vikings: After back-to-back losses dropped them to 8-5, the Vikings are a game behind the Packers in the NFC North. But they're still in control of their own destiny, since they'd finish 11-5 and win a tiebreaker with the Packers if they win out (including a victory over Green Bay in Week 17 at Lambeau Field). Said tight end Kyle Rudolph: "All of our goals are still in front of us." -- Ben Goessling

NFC SOUTH

Atlanta Falcons: Quarterback Matt Ryan will have to show more leadership over the last three games, and he knows it. His play hasn't reflected that of a leader, with two more turnovers in Sunday's 38-0 loss to the Carolina Panthers. "[I] have to find a way to get the best out of myself and the guys around me, and I haven't done a good enough job of that," Ryan said. -- Vaughn McClure

Carolina Panthers: The Panthers will begin looking at options to replace cornerback Bene Benwikere's roster spot on Monday. Benwikere suffered a season-ending fractured leg in the fourth quarter of Sunday's win against Atlanta. He was replacing every-down left corner Charles Tillman (knee). Tillman says he believes he will be ready to return next Sunday against the Giants. Either way the Panthers will begin working Teddy Williams and possibly Cortland Finnegan into that spot, although Finnegan was splitting time at nickel with Colin Jones, who left with a groin injury. -- David Newton

New Orleans Saints: The Saints answered one of the biggest fantasy questions of the week by clearly establishing Tim Hightower as the leading man in their backfield with 29 touches, compared to just six touches for C.J. Spiller. The disparity likely won't be quite that wide going forward (Mark Ingram never had more than 22 carries in a game all year before Hightower had 28 in a rare ground-control game Sunday). The Saints were actually mixing and matching their two backs a bit early in the game, with Spiller catching three passes and getting in some packages near the goal line. But then it was all Hightower in the second half. It's going to be really hard to have any faith in Spiller's prospects going forward after he made so little impact. -- Mike Triplett

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Tampa Bay could be without receiver Vincent Jackson and defensive tackle Akeem Spence for Thursday's game at St. Louis. Jackson suffered a knee injury and missed the second half, while Spence went down with what appeared to be a lower-body injury. Their status should be updated Monday. -- Rick Brown

NFC WEST

Arizona Cardinals: With Seattle's win over Baltimore on Sunday, the Cardinals are still vying for an NFC West championship. Their next opportunity to claim the title will come next Sunday night in Philadelphia. -- Josh Weinfuss

St. Louis Rams: The Rams won't have long to celebrate snapping their five-game losing streak as their coaching staff went right back to work following Sunday's win against Detroit. One thing they'll have to monitor closely is running back Todd Gurley, who said he "banged up" his knee late in the game. Gurley said he expects to be fine, but he doesn't have much time to recover as the Rams play Tampa Bay on Thursday night. -- Nick Wagoner

San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers were feeling unusually good about themselves after a fluky overtime victory at the Bears last week, so after Johnny Manziel and the Browns smacked them around to the tune of a 24-10 demolition that was not even that close, you have to wonder about the team's psyche this week. Veterans Joe Staley and Ahmad Brooks said there was a feeling that the Niners overlooked the heretofore woeful Browns. Will that happen again this week, with the suddenly wobbly Bengals coming to Santa Clara, California? -- Paul Gutierrez

Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks' commitment to being a run-first offense will be put to the test now that Thomas Rawls is out for the season with a broken ankle. Rawls had provided Seattle with a spark and was averaging a league-high 5.65 yards per carry. Pete Carroll sounded hopeful that the team could get Marshawn Lynch back at some point, but there's no timetable on his return. Look for the team to sign a back this week and go with a committee approach with DuJuan Harris and Fred Jackson until Lynch is able to return. -- Sheil Kapadia