Notes: Lewis rules out letdown; Hawkins questionable; M. Jones doubtful; Fresher Huber; Chief nicks

Taylor Mays

Updated: 5:15 p.m.

Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis shook his head when asked about avoiding a letdown when the 4-5 Bengals play the 1-8 Chiefs on Sunday (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12) in Kansas City.

"I don't know if we can have a letdown. We haven't had a buildup," Lewis said after Friday's practice. "I'm still waiting for a buildup. We have nothing to let down. We haven't gotten very far. We know we have to go play good football and make plays. We haven't accomplished anything."

The comparison, of course, is Miami and Cleveland, two games last month everyone thought the Bengals should win.

"We didn't make enough plays to win the game in Cleveland and we left them hanging around," Lewis said. "We allowed a couple of returns that were big. These are the things you can't have happen. We have to be consistent. We can't turn the ball over on offense and we've got to get some turnovers on defense. We've got to just keep grinding away at the same four, five things we've been talking about each week. That hasn't changed."

The AFC race would appear to be tightening. Miami has fallen to 4-6 and the Steelers and Ravens play each other twice in the next three weeks missing their best players. But Lewis isn't talking to his team about those developments.

"I don't worry about that. I tell our team to worry about us," Lewis said. "Take care of business and everything else will fall into place just like it did a year ago and the year before that and the year before that. It always does. The teams that get hot at the end have an opportunity to keep playing. … We've got a seven-week season to go, let's be great at it."

MORE MAYS?: With safety Reggie Nelson missing his sixth straght practice and second full week of work since he injured his hamstring Nov. 4 against Denver, he's been assigned doubftul for Sunday (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12) in Kansas City.

Wide receiver Andrew Hawkins came up questionable after injuring his knee in a limited practice Friday, but indications are it is not a major issue. Center Jeff Faine (hamstring) looks to be more of a problem. He's also questionable but he didn't practice Friday.

Hawkins is a key player on third and fourth down for the Bengals as a slot receiver and gunner on punt coverage and had an 11-yard touchdown catch on third-and-10 last Sunday against the Giants. The Bengals had good success putting their other slot receiver, rookie Mohamed Sanu, outside while putting Hawkins inside.

The Bengals apparently won't have rookie outside receiver Marvin Jones (knee) for what amounts to the fourth straight game. He went limited again Friday and is doubtful. 

At safety, Taylor Mays got the start last week in Nelson's spot, but ended up playing only 12 snaps when the Giants went mostly with passing formations and Nate Clements took 61 snaps that included his first interception of the season. But with the Chiefs preparing to play the Bengals with the NFL's fourth-best rush offense, the 230-pound Mays figures to get more work this Sunday against a running game spearheaded by the 5-11, 200-pound Jamaal Charles and complemented by the 6-2, 250-pound Peyton Hillis.

Mays (knee) was probable after going full, as was everybody else besides Nelson, Jones, Hawkins and Faine.

*CHIEFS NICKED: *The Chiefs are having all sorts of problems on the offensive line.

Starting right guard Jon Asamoah (thumb) had already been ruled out for Sunday when word came that Chiefs center Ryan Lilja (knee) didn't practice Friday and was on the exercise bike. According to the Kansas City Star, the Chiefs lined up during the early portion of practice with Russ Hochstein at center while tackle Eric Winston moved into right guard and second-round pick Donald Stephenson was at right tackle. Hochstein was signed in September when the original center, Rodney Hudson, broke his leg in the third game.

According to The Star, Lilja, who moved from left guard to center after Hudson's injury, has not been on the injury report this week, nor was he mentioned by head coach Romeo Crennel as being a question for Sunday's game. The Star said he has missed and been limited in practice with back problems.

RECORD STENGTH: Bengals punter Kevin Huber noticed during his first three seasons in the NFL that he'd have a big first half of the season and then his performance would decline after the bye week.

So he's decided to do some extra leg strength work on Tuesdays and Thursdays and his club record seasons for gross and net yards keep rolling. He's bidding to become the first Bengal to break the 40-yard barrier for net at 41.5 and his 46.9-yard gross would break Dave Lewis's record of 46.2 set in 1970. The net is currently second in the NFL.

"I was looking at one of two things," Huber said. "I was either kicking too much, and that wasn't it, or my leg strength was going down. I needed to change it up. So Tuesday and Thursday I put in some extra work and I feel fresher on Sunday. I feel like I'm taking it through the season instead of tailing off in weeks eight, nine and 10."

Not only is the in-season work paying off, but what he did in the offseason is also paying dividends. Huber wanted to improve those "pooch punts" that come inside midfield, and it's helped produce the NFL's eighth-best differential with 14 more punts inside the 20 (18) than in the end zone (four).

Huber said he focused more on those types of kicks and worked a lot on his grip. He went through a bunch before he felt comfortable.

"For a regular punt, the ball is flat," Huber said. "For end over end, the ball is more pointed to the ground so when you hit it there's backspin. I've had that kick since I've been here, but now I'm really trying to perfect it. All it is is giving the guys the best chance possible to get down there. Mostly it's getting comfortable with the grip. I found one I liked and it didn't feel right at first, but it's working for me now."

Not to mention his gunners and other punt cover team members that are ranked 15th covering punts.

"What those guys have been able to do this year and last year has been great," Huber said. "They've really executed when it comes to covering it inside the 5, 10 or 15."

ROME IS BURNING FOR A.J.: Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green is scheduled to appear in another Jungle on Friday when he calls into the Jim Rome Show after practice in the 11:45 a.m. time frame.

WEATHER CHECK: The National Weather Service in Wilmington, Ohio, is calling for partly sunny skies with temperatures in the upper 50s Sunday in Kansas City with no chance of rain until after the game at 6 p.m. Wind is projected out of the south at 15 miles per hour with gusts up to 20.

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