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Notes; Crocker rehabs; Peko limited; Tank fires on Woodley; Palmer rates Ocho TD; More playoff ifs

Updated: 6:35 p.m.

Safety Chris Crocker (ankle) missed his eighth straight practice Thursday, lessening his chances he'll be returning Sunday. Defensive tackle Domata Peko (knee) also has to be a question with his second straight day of limited work.

Crocker is clearly gettiing better, though, as evidenced by his brisk workouts under the watchful eye of rehab trainer Nick Cosgray on the side. Among other exercises, Crocker went through agility and explosion drills.

Defensive tackle Tank Johnson (foot) continued to rest the sore bottom of the foot that has nagged him all season, but he usually goes full go Friday. Yet Robert Geathers (knee) didn't work for the second straight day as well.

This hits to the heart of the matter Sunday. This injury report would indicate the Bengals are going to at least rest their guys that are nicked up.

Wide receiver Andre Caldwell wasn't on the field at the beginning of practice and missed it with an illness. Defensive tackle Jon Fanene (shoulder) and tight end J.P. Foschi (neck) were also limited.

» Former Bengals wide receiver Cris Collinsworth, the NBC analyst for Sunday night's game, said Thursday the Bengals can get to the Super Bowl: "Why not? They run the ball, they stop the run and they nearly beat San Diego on the road and they're the hottest team in football."

» Rookie SAM linebacker Rey Maualuga tried to convince head coach Marvin Lewis to keep a spot open on the 53-man roster so he could play in the Feb. 7 Super Bowl, but his season ended Wednesday when the club put him on injured reserve with his fractured left ankle.

Sunday's prognosis has held up. Maualuga doesn't need surgery and he'll be back running in time to be ready for the offseason workouts that usually begin in late March or early April. But it didn't make sense to rush him back so early if the Bengals do make it to Miami.

"I tried to persuade them," he said Thursday. "Instead of being selfish, just step down, and let somebody come up that they really need. I figure I'm a football player, I play football, they're doctors. Let them do their job."

» Quarterback Carson Palmer said as of Wednesday he was taking all the snaps in practice, so from what he can see the Bengals are preparing to go all out Sunday against the Jets.

» Defensive tackle Tank Johnson, who knows LaMarr Woodley, plans to call him after practice Thursday and give him a piece of his mind. He saw Woodley's quotes that predicted the Bengals and Patriots would "lay down" Sunday and lose so the Steelers won't get into the playoffs. It is Woodley's contention that everyone fears the Steelers in the postseason.

"I can tell you this," Johnson said. "We didn't lay down against the Steelers, so I think LaMarr Woodley should worry about what concerns LaMarr Woodley and the Steelers and not worry about this great franchise in the Bengals."

» How big of a two weeks for Foschi? After coming off his career game against San Diego (seven catches, 82 yards), his wife gave birth to their first child Christmas Eve Day, Robert John Foschi. Or as his dad already calls him, "Bobby." Now the Queens native who grew up on Long Island is set to play in the last game ever at The Meadowlands.

"A lot of family and friends," he said, and he doesn't have the exact number.

He'll make some friends with his teammates. It's a tradition that hometown guys set up their mates with some local cuisine the night before the game. Foschi has already ordered 20 to 30 pizzas from Lombardi's in Little Italy.

» As good as Chad Ochocinco's lean-on-me-backward-six-yard touchdown catch was last Sunday to win the game, Palmer says he's seen him make better catches.

In fact, Palmer says his first touchdown pass to The Ocho in his first NFL start on Sept. 12, 2004 is still the best catch anyone has ever made on one of his throws. It was a tumbling 53-yarder in the end zone in which Ochocinco's head bounced off the turf against the Jets in The Meadowlands. Which is, of course, the matchup this Sunday night.

"That was amazing," Palmer recalled Thursday. "This was a great catch (last Sunday), but he's made more acrobatic catches. One-handed in the air. Toes hanging over the sidelines and staying inbounds."

But last Sunday was a good one.

"He made the throw easy," Palmer said. "He killed the guy at the line of scrimmage, got inside him and gave me a good window to throw into."

MORE IFS:According to Elias Sports Bureau, if the Bengals beat the Jets and Baltimore wins at Oakland, then the Ravens would be locked into the No. 5 spot. Who would be No. 6 is anyone's guess. If Denver were to beat the Chiefs at home, it would depend on what happened to Pittsburgh playing at Miami and/or Houston hosting the Pats to decide the last spot. The Steelers would hold the tiebreaker over Denver in a two-way tie, but if Houston also won, then the Broncos would hold the tiebreaker because that would wipe out the Steelers' head-to-head win.

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