Analysis: Joe Burrow joins painfully long list of sidelined starters

AP photo by Matt Rourke / Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow looks down on the sideline in the second half of the team's road loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday night.

Joe Burrow shook his head, screamed and jogged to the locker room because the pain in his right wrist wouldn't allow him to throw a football on the sideline.

Another week in the NFL's 2023 season, another injured quarterback.

Burrow is no ordinary QB, however. For the Cincinnati Bengals, he's the franchise.

With him, they were Super Bowl contenders. They've won consecutive AFC North Division titles and a conference crown since using the No. 1 pick of the 2020 draft on the former LSU star.

Without him, they have no chance.

Aaron Rodgers of the New York Jets. Kirk Cousins of the Minnesota Vikings. Anthony Richardson of the Indianapolis Colts. Daniel Jones of the New York Giants. Deshaun Watson of the Cleveland Browns. And now Burrow.

He exited Thursday night's game in the second quarter, a devastating blow for the Bengals, who went from leading the Baltimore Ravens 10-7 with their star player to losing 34-20 in a division game.

The Bengals (5-5) have lost two in a row and are last in the competitive AFC North. The team said Friday that Burrow has a torn ligament in his right wrist and will be out the remainder of the season.

Burrow missed training camp with a calf injury that limited him the first month of the season, and he was rusty during an 0-2 start. But once he started feeling better, the Bengals got going. They won four games in a row, including impressive victories over the Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers and Buffalo Bills before losing to the Houston Texans last Sunday.

Jake Browning had thrown one pass in his NFL career before he replaced Burrow against the Ravens. He'll face the Steelers (6-3) when the Bengals return to the playing field on Nov. 26, and the 27-year-old — signed by the Vikings in 2019 after going undrafted — will likely be the starter for the rest of the season.

No matter how much the NFL tries to protect quarterbacks, they're going down at an alarming rate.

"It's not a fluke," Jacksonville Jaguars coach Doug Pederson said Friday. "Defensive rushers are getting faster, leaner, quicker. I also think you're seeing injuries at offensive line, so you're playing sometimes your second, third or even fourth guy that doesn't have — and it's nothing against them — they just don't have that experience, obviously.

"We know it's a violent sport; we try to do everything we can by rule, No. 1, and by protection to protect the quarterback. Sometimes they're going to be exposed, especially when they're runners or they're mobile and can move around. You don't ever want to see it; it can definitely affect your team moving forward."

The Jets lost Rodgers in the opener when the former Green Bay Packers star tore an Achilles' tendon on the fourth play of his first game with his new team. The Jets (4-5) haven't recovered, with their offense dismal as Zach Wilson takes the snaps. Rodgers is aiming for a return in mid-December, but New York could be out of the playoff race by then.

The Vikings lost Cousins for the rest of the season to a torn Achilles' tendon in the eighth week. They traded for Joshua Dobbs two days later, and he has led Minnesota (6-4) to a pair of victories to extend the team's winning streak to five games.

Richardson, the No. 4 overall draft pick in April, played in only four games for Indianapolis before having season-ending shoulder surgery. The Colts (5-5) have stayed in the playoff mix in the AFC South with backup Gardner Minshew.

Jones missed three games with a neck injury and then tore his ACL in his first game back with the Giants in the ninth week. Backup Tyrod Taylor has missed two straight games with a rib injury, forcing New York (2-8) to turn to undrafted rookie Tommy DeVito.

The Browns lost Watson for the remainder of the season to a shoulder injury after he led them to a comeback win over Baltimore last Sunday. The Browns (6-3) will try to make a playoff push with rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson.

Matthew Stafford of the Los Angeles Rams, Justin Fields of the Chicago Bears, Ryan Tannehill of the Tennessee Titans and Jimmy Garoppolo of the Las Vegas Raiders have also missed games this season. Tannehill and Garoppolo eventually lost their starting jobs.

The New Orleans Saints turned to Jameis Winston last Sunday after Derek Carr came out with concussion symptoms. New Orleans (5-5), atop the NFC South standings, has an open date this weekend, giving Carr more time to return.

Jalen Hurts has played through a knee injury over the past three games for the Philadelphia Eagles (8-1). Kyler Murray just returned for the Arizona Cardinals after ACL surgery last year and led the team to a home win last Sunday over the Atlanta Falcons — whose starting quarterback in that game, Taylor Heinicke, had to exit early due to injury.

Football is the ultimate team sport, but quarterbacks are usually the most important player on the field.

Too many teams are relying on backups.