CINCINNATI — Running back Giovani Bernard and linebacker Vontaze Burfict will not play Sunday when the Bengals play at New Orleans, the first of three straight road games.
The two key components on either side of the ball have been ruled out on the team’s official injury report. Right tackle Andre Smith is listed as doubtful and expected to miss his second straight game with an ankle, while cornerback Terence Newman (knee) and linebacker Rey Maualuga (hamstring) are listed as questionable.
Smith practiced on a limited basis on Wednesday but was back in a walking boot on Thursday and hasn’t practiced the last two days. Marshall Newhouse is expected to start in place of Smith. Newman has not practiced this week, making it unlikely that he plays against a Saints team led by quarterback Drew Brees that is ranked No. 3 in the NFL in passing. The Bengals are expecting Leon Hall to return after missing one game with a concussion but Darqueze Dennard and Dre Kirkpatrick, the team’s last two top draft picks, will see extended playing time.
Maualuga has practiced all week for the first time since being hurt against Carolina on Oct. 12.
Bernard has missed the last two games with hip and clavicle injuries, while Burfict’s injury-riddled season is now on hiatus as he continues to rehab from arthroscopic knee surgery on Oct. 29. Burfict has started and finished just two games this season due to previous concussions and neck injuries.
Jeremy Hill will get the start at running back in place of Bernard, while Vinny Rey will take Burfict’s spot on defense.
Hall is one of five players listed as probable on the injury report. Tight end Jermaine Gresham (thigh), safety Taylor Mays (foot), running back Cedric Peerman (knee) and offensive lineman Mike Pollak (knee) are also probable to play.
While both teams are still in their respective division races — the Bengals (5-3-1) trail first-place Cleveland by one-half game in the AFC North and New Orleans leads the NFC South despite a 4-5 record — but neither has been pleased with its overall play this season. The Bengals are coming off a 24-3 home loss to the Browns last Thursday, while the Saints lost in overtime to San Francisco, 27-24, last Sunday.
Those losses snapped long streaks of home dominance by both teams. The Bengals had a 14-game non-losing streak (13-0-1) come to an end against the Browns, while New Orleans saw it’s 11-game home win streak stopped by the 49ers.
"Both see themselves playing for something towards the end of the season," said New Orleans coach Sean Payton. "You’ll see all of those things in play and both teams will be hungry for a win."