Cincinnati Bengals Week 17 Stock Report
The arrow seems to point down for the Cincinnati Bengals overall.
Though the team clutches the AFC North crown and a spot in the postseason, chatter about its ability to finish strong only intensified after a baffling overtime loss to the Denver Broncos on Monday Night Football when backup quarterback AJ McCarron fumbled a snap and hurt himself trying to recover it.
The good news? NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported McCarron sounds like he wants to play in Week 17 despite his injury.
Regardless, Cincinnati's stock remains in a state of flux, as some could suggest taking it to the Broncos in such an environment with key players missing was more impressive than disappointing.
Let's sort it all out by looking at some of the team's biggest stock-movers.
Stock Up: Carlos Dunlap
Carlos Dunlap doesn't get enough credit.
Sure, he's benefiting from Geno Atkins playing at an elite level and having Michael Johnson across from him, but Dunlap's ability to wreak havoc might be one of Cincinnati's biggest reasons for success this year.
Dunlap disrupted Denver's timing in a big way Monday and in the process made history with his three sacks.
Around the NFL broke down the historic performance: "Carlos Dunlap up to 13.5 sacks, breaking Eddie Edwards’ long-standing Bengals single-season sack record. Michael Schofield can’t handle him."
A force who makes the job of the secondary easier, Dunlap is going to play a key role against Baltimore in Week 17 and wherever the team lands in the postseason.
Stock Down: Mike Nugent
The "what if" game is never fun and hardly ever fair, but it sure is easy to look back on Monday's loss and wag a finger at kicker Mike Nugent.
Nugent whiffed on a 45-yard field-goal attempt in the second frame of a game decided in overtime by three points. Cincinnati should have never needed to lean on such a mistake if it had played a better second half, but it certainly stings after Nugent later made a kick from 52 yards.
For his part, he explained the gaffe to ESPN.com's Coley Harvey:
I obviously didn't try to align it the way I hit it. The way I took my steps back and over, I was just a little close to the ball. And when you're a little close, you push it like that. Because it was a solid hit, it leads me to believe it was just an alignment issue. Even as an 11-year vet, it's something that can get the best of you. I don't like it when that happens because you're setting yourself up. You use those steps for a reason and I messed those up [Monday].
Maybe the fact Nugent is one of the only players to get a downward stock trend after the loss speaks to how well the team fought.
That said, Nugent's miss stands tall.
Stock Up: Reggie Nelson
Reggie Nelson delivered one of the hits of the year Monday against the Broncos, absolutely destroying tight end Owen Daniels.
Daniels added via a hashtag it's the hardest he's ever been hit, which sounds about right for Nelson with the way his season has gone.
Nelson also came away with a huge fumble recovery at a key point in Monday's game, too. He had eight interceptions on the year entering the game, so his elite campaign continues going into Week 17.
Stock Down: Clint Boling
It's hard to pick out which offensive lineman not named Andrew Whitworth struggled the most this past week.
When it comes to a stock drop, though, left guard Clint Boling has to lead the charge, especially considering Andre Smith and Russell Bodine's stocks have been low all season.
Boling actually had mostly a great season up until Week 15, when he posted his lowest grade of the year at Pro Football Focus. Monday's game resulted in his second-lowest grade of the year, as he allowed his first sack since Week 10 and coughed up a season-high five quarterback hurries.
One doesn't need advanced metrics to see the struggles. Boling's play continues to plummet with the entire unit, and where the fall stops isn't easy to project.
Boling and the unit's struggles are easily the biggest concern around the Bengals right now.
Stock Up: A.J. Green
Sans Tyler Eifert, A.J. Green predictably erupted against the Broncos.
Green saw nine targets, catching five for 57 yards and a touchdown and mostly winning the battle with one of the league's top cornerbacks, Chris Harris Jr.
It's a big turnaround for Green, who suffered a minor back issue while preparing for the Week 15 encounter against the San Francisco 49ers. In that game, he caught one pass for 37 yards and then sat out for most of the matchup against a beatable opponent.
Despite missing time, Green has five touchdowns over the course of his last five outings, raising his stock higher than it has been all season.
Call it an incredible performance by one of the league's best. Where many would struggle in a bad matchup with a backup under center and without a weapon such as Eifert to draw attention, Green continued to excel.
With Green playing like this, one can only imagine the heights the offense can hit once again when Eifert returns.