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Bengals QB Andy Dalton Breaks Thumb, Possibly Ends Patriots Chances of Playoff Homefield Advantage

There are clear Patriots implications with the Bengals loss to the Steelers, but Andy Dalton's injury is probably the most important.

The (8-5) Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the (10-3) Cincinnati Bengals to give the (10-2) New England Patriots a major assist in the playoff standings.

The Steelers victory was exactly what the Patriots needed in order to get back into the driver's seat for clinching the AFC Homefield Advantage. The hope was for the Bengals to lose to the Steelers, but beat the Broncos in week 16, so New England could regain the top seed in the conference by winning out.

Unfortunately, quarterback Andy Dalton fractured the thumb in his throwing hand while making a tackle on an interception and is already expected to be out for next week. Tight end Tyler Eifert, arguably the second or third best tight end in the NFL, suffered a concussion after returning from a neck injury. The Bengals are banged up and it's possible that they could be without two of their best offensive players for a couple weeks.

This is a problem for the Patriots because New England's homefield advantage hopes hinge upon the Broncos losing one more game this season, with the Bengals in week 16 being a likely losing opportunity. If Dalton misses time, the Bengals will have to rely on back-up A.J. McCarron, who isn't very good, and a Cincinnati upset of Denver becomes less likely.

Instead, the Patriots will have to root for the Steelers for one more week, as Pittsburgh takes on the Broncos in Pennsylvania in week 15, and just cross their fingers for Andy Dalton to lead the Bengals in week 16 to provide New England a little more breathing room.