Notes: Dunlap, Clements sit; Finish strong; A.J. vs. J-Joe; Kubiak offers Favre comparison


Pat Sims

Updated: 5:10 p.m.

With the temperature dipping to 33 degrees at Paul Brown Stadium inside for Wednesday's practice, not a good day for injured hamstrings. Left end Carlos Dunlap did work on the side, but didn't dress. Cornerback Nate Clements wasn't on the field. Neither was right tackle Andre Smith (ankle), who said after Sunday's game he'd play.

Safety Chris Crocker (knee) had Wednesday off per usual, while running back Cedric Benson (foot), center Kyle Cook (shoulder), and linebacker Brandon Johnson (knee) were limited. Tight end Donald Lee (foot), who has missed the last four games, went full.

» Head coach Marvin Lewis been here before even if his young team hasn't. For the sixth time in his nine seasons the Bengals are at least .500 the week before or after the first game and they're trying to get to the playoffs for the third time.

So Lewis has a shirt to match the occasion. The players discovered in their lockers Wednesday morning a black long-sleeved T-shirt that reads "Finish Strong" in Bengals orange lettering on the back and "All In" on the front.

That's one of the themes Lewis is developing this week for Sunday's Paul Brown Stadium game (1 p.m.-WLW-AM 1530) as the 7-5 Bengals try to stay in the hunt for the last AFC Wild Card spot and the 9-3 Texans try to clinch the AFC South division with a win and Tennessee loss.

Another one is that the best defensive team is going to prevail at PBS Sunday. The Texans come in ranked as the second-best unit in the league and are particularly stingy against the pass, where they are allowing the fewest passing yards per game and are tied with the most interceptions.

"We're trying to get back to where we were a few weeks ago," defensive tackle Domata Peko said of the sixth-best Bengals defense that has been in the top five much of the season.

» The game's marquee matchup pits Bengals rookie sensation A.J. Green against Texans cornerback Johnathan Joseph, the Bengals first-round pick in 2006 who left via free agency before this season and has become there what he was here: one of the league's top corners who has solidified a young secondary.

Asked what Joseph does best, safety Chris Crocker, one of Joseph's many friends in the Bengals secondary, said it is his brains.

"He's smarter than you think," Crocker said. "He has a great feel for the game."

After watching Joseph on tape, Green said he reminds him of Browns rookie cornerback Joe Haden, although maybe not as physical.

"He's one of the best corners in the league," Green said. "He's a great cover guy that keys all your movements. I don't know (about being physical). He wasn't real physical with Roddy (White). He just liked to get on your hip and read your keys on hands and different motions like that.

» Even though he's got four games left after already playing 11, Green says his body feels better than it did in college.

» Green caught a second look at Sunday's false-start penalty that wiped out a TD on the first drive and said, "I've seen people moving more than that and it doesn't get called, but it happens."

» Texans head coach Gary Kubiak said during Wednesday's conference call with the Cincinnati media that Bengals rookie quarterback Andy Dalton reminds him of Brett Favre the way he competes and plays the game. He also said from what he's seen, Dalton can make every throw and has no worries about his arm strength.

"I don't want to put this kind of pressure on him but I know when we studied him in the draft I told guys he reminded me of Brett Favre a little bit when he came out," Kubiak said. "He obviously threw the ball a lot more than Brett did coming out but just the way you watched him play the games, the way you watched him find a way to win, find a way to make a play. That's what it's all about in this league. You've got to be able to improvise and he can definitely do that.

"I don't see any throws he hasn't been able to make. I've got one in my mind down in Seattle where he moved to his left and hit (A.J.) Green down the middle of the field. I see him making every throw you need to make and that's all that matters."

» With defensive tackle Pat Sims going on season-ending injured reserve with an ankle injury, the Bengals turned to Nick Hayden, a sixth-round draft pick out of Wisconsin of the Panthers in '08. Hayden played in 12 games last season. The 2008 season was the year the Bengals took Sims in the third round out of Auburn. Now that Sims is a free agent, it's unclear if the Bengals are going to sign him back.

Sims suffered an ankle injury in the Nov. 29 win over the Browms and when he came back to practice last week, he injured a different part of the ankle.

» It is beginnig to feel a bit like the 2009 playoff run on defense, when Peko missed all of December following arthroscopic knee surgery and came back for the playoffs. Sims missed the playoffs when he broke a forearm in the last game and Ray Maualuga, playing SAM backer at the time, broke his leg in the 15th game and missed the rest of the way.

» With 44, wide receiver Brandon Tate has broken Patrick Robinson's 1993 single-season club-record of 43 punt returns and he needs 50 yards on Sunday to break Quan Cosby's single-season record of 474 yards set two years ago.

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