Updated: 6:15 p.m.
On New Year's Day, which marks the 365th day of their most turbulent and surprising year of their existence, the Bengals get a shot in the season finale at Paul Brown Stadium to qualify for the playoffs if they beat the Ravens on Sunday (4:15 p.m.-Cincinnati's Local 12) in front of a full house.
Head coach Marvin Lewis pondered the calendar after Friday's practice. The calendar is about the only thing that didn't get ripped up. And on this day, when the community responded to the team's reduced season ticket prices for the 2012 season by selling several hundred, momentum was finally on the side of the Bengals.
It took Lewis a few days to re-up with Bengals president Mike Brown after the Jan. 2 finale and what hasn't happened since?
The Bengals fired their offensive coordinator, fielded a trade demand from their franchise quarterback, drafted his replacement in the second round, endured a four-month lockout, traded their all-time leading receiver, watched rookie quarterback Andy Dalton and Jay Gruden's new offense win five of their first '11 starts in the fourth quarter, traded said franchise QB in a franchise-making deal for a first-round pick and maybe two, and celebrated their first Pro Bowl rookie in 30 years with the selection of first-round pick A.J. Green.
"Change is good," Lewis said with a smile. "I said (before the last game) if I were to come back here there was going to be a lot of change and when I came back it was a chance to start fresh and new that people never get a chance to do. I approached it like I was a new coach in a new situation and that's what we've done."
Lewis saluted left tackle Andrew Whitworth, not only the Bengals representative to the NFL Players Association but along with defensive tackle Domata Peko the glue that kept the locker room together and Lewis said Whitworth "did a tremendous job keeping the football team moving forward during the lockout period."
Lewis praised the locker room for having the most lieutenants he's ever had in helping him with the cause and had a special word for first-year Bengals cornerback Nate Clements, an 11-year pro a win away from reaching his first playoff game.
"It will be ecstatic," said Lewis of the feeling for Clements if the Bengals can win. "It will bring everybody to tears."
As for his band of lieutenants, Lewis said, "They all feel like they have a voice. They self-police everything they do."
Lewis bristled at criticism of the club that focuses on its drafting and competitiveness as it tries to become the 16th team to go to the playoffs for the second time in the last three years. And he praised how management has reached out to the community.
"The administration has done a lot. They're mindful. They listen," Lewis said. "They want a packed house. You have to take steps and take a step back in order to do that, but we had to take steps forward on the field this year and we will continue. The organization will continue in the future.
"The dumb stuff people say and talk about they don't really know. It makes no sense. You can't say anything about drafting poorly. Come on. Please. In nine years there is no team that has as many guys there."
The two times the Bengals have needed to get in on the last day under Lewis, 2003 and 2006, they lost home games. He doesn't see the similarities.
"I think this time it's different," he said. "We don't need help from anyone else. We just need to take care of business."'
SLANTS AND SCREENS
» Left end Carlos Dunlap practiced with the Bengals during Friday morning's workout on the Paul Brown Stadium fields, indicating they'll have their top pass rusher for Sunday's game at PBS (4:15 p.m.-Cincinnati's Local 12) against the Ravens. He was listed as questionable after being limited.
Safety Taylor Mays (hamstring), one of the club's top special teams players the past two months, didn't go and hasn't all week so he probably won't be active and was listed as doubtful. Backup tackle Anthony Collins didn't practice because of an eye infection, but he's probable.
Ravens Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda (chest) was listed as doubtful after he was limited Friday. Wide receiver Anquan Boldin (knee) was cleared to practice Friday and was limited and he's listed as doubtful. Kicker Billy Cundiff (calf) was limited for the third straight day, but no word if the Ravens will shelve him for Shayne Graham.
» Those 55 needy children from St. Monica's Recreation Center that defensive tackle Domata Peko hosted for a Christmas dinner last week with presents at Johnny Rockets got one more gift: A limousine ride and ticket to Sunday's game.
"Their first NFL game," Peko said. "They'll remember it the rest if their lives."
» The National Weather Service in Wilmington, Ohio is calling for a windy game under partly sunny skies with a high of 48 degrees. There'll be gusts as high as 31 miles per hour. There's no chance of rain with the morning showers moving out before kickoff.
» ESPN's Adam Schefter tweets Bengals running back Cedric Benson has hit a $500,000 incentive and needs 84 yards Sunday to get another $250,000. In six games, Benson has averaged 71 yards against Baltimore.