An 8-1 finish?
Chad Ocho Cinco thinks the Bengals can go Ocho and Ocho.
"I don't know about people watching this, but I feel we've got a chance to go 8-8," Ocho Cinco said before Wednesday's practice. "We get a good win. We get rolling and Fitzy (quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick) getting better week in and week out. Y'all don't get to see it and might not understand it, but watching film he's getting better. He's getting a lot more comfortable."
The Ocho thinks Fitzpatrick can get the ball to him. Once the most feared long-ball artist in the game (he has 35 career catches of at least 40 yards), Ocho Cinco has none of 40 this year and only one of 20 with a long of 22 yards.
The last time he went seven straight games without catching a 40-yarder? You guessed it. That same stretch the Bengals went 0-7 the last time before they got their first win in Houston in '02. That year he went the first nine games before catching a plus 40.
"He can throw it. He has a good arm. I mean, he's no golden boy No. 9, but we're not going to use him the same way we use No. 9," Ocho Cinco said of Fitzpatrick.
Wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh (ankle) didn't wear pads early in Wednesday's practice but he's expected to be able to go Sunday in Houston. As one of four Bengals left from the 2002 team that broke its 0-7 skein in the same Reliant Stadium (Ocho Cinco, Levi Jones and Brad St. Louis), all Houshmandzadeh remembers is he doesn't remember much.
In his second season looking for playing time on a team with the Ocho, Peter Warrick and Michael Westbrook, Houshmandzadeh didn't think he was going to play and didn't go to sleep until 4 a.m. But he did get the call and caught three balls for 30 yards. Meanwhile, The Ocho and Warrick caught a touchdown each from Jon Kitna ("One of the few I get every year," Ocho said Wednesday) and the infamous Westbrook caught his only two Bengals TDs. Since that day, Houshmandzadeh has caught 36 touchdowns while Warrick would have 11 more in the NFL.
The Bengals finally get a legit 4-3 defense after run of 3-4s in Cleveland, Dallas, the Jets and Pittsburgh. The Texans don't blitz much and left guard Andrew Whitworth said much of the pass protection will be on the offensive line.
Shayne Graham kicked Tuesday and said he feels strong after missing two weeks with a groin injury. He's not worried about rust and thinks the rest is going to make his legs stronger.
The Bengals filled their last roster spot Wednesday when they re-signed Reagan Mauia, the fullback caught in the numbers game when Graham was shelved 11 days ago.
Now that Graham is healthy and stand-in Dave Rayner has been waived, Maui'a is back. After playing in all 16 games with the Dolphins as a rookie last year, he has played in two of his five games in Cincinnati.
Marvin Lewis said that wide receiver Jerome Simpson (ankle) is questionable, as is tight end Ben Utecht (chest) for this week. Wide receiver Antonio Chatman is going to be held out of Wednesday's practice, but will play.
Also Wednesday the Bengals re-signed wide receiver Maurice Purify to the practice squad. The rookie free agent from Nebraska played in the four preseason games with three catches for 25 yards before being released from the practice squad last month.
On Wednesday the Bengals conducted Cincinnati's biggest annual blood drive with Hoxworth in the East Club Lounge and were headed to another record day as 100 donors filed through in the first 45 minutes.