Pregame Notebook: Bengals Re-Shuffle Lineups; Huber Joins Ken Riley In 207th Game

Kevin Huber set to punt in his 207th game.
Kevin Huber set to punt in his 207th game.

Along with Joe Burrow, the Bengals sat four other starters when they deactivated 1,000-yard receiver Tee Higgins, defensive signal-caller Logan Wilson, nose tackle D.J. Reader and kicker Evan McPherson for Sunday's regular season finale in Cleveland.

All of them went full in Friday's practice, indicating they'll be ready to go when the Bengals begin preparations this week for a playoff game that could be as soon as Saturday.

With Higgins out, Mike Thomas could get his second start of the season and although he's active, slot receiver Tyler Boyd figures to barely play, if at all. Speculation has rookie wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase starting in a bid to get 12 yards to break Chad Johnson's club season receiving record, but he doesn't figure to play much beyond the first series.

Chase comes in with 79 catches for 1,429 yards while Higgins finished with 74 catches for 1,091 yards in 14 games.

With Wilson out, that figures the other starting linebacker, Germaine Pratt, also sits. That could mean Clay Johnston gets his first NFL start in his 15th game and Austin Calitro his 10th in his 47th game. Josh Tupou probably gets his ninth start with Reader out.

Strong safety Vonn Bell and right end Trey Hendrickson are on the COVID list and their positions are most likely going to be dominated by new starters with guys like Khalid Kareem and Ricardo Allen, respectively. It would be Kareem's first NFL start and Allen's 77th, his first with the Bengals.

O-LINE SHUFFLE: Look for the rookies to man the interior of a Bengals offensive line hit with injury and COVID. Center Trey Hopkins is on the COVD list and left guard Quinton Spain (ankle) is on both. Rookie center Trey Hill is expected to make his third NFL start (second at center) and rookie Jackson Carman his sixth and first at left guard. D'Ante Smith, a fourth-round pick in his third game got the start at left tackle in place of Jonah Williams.

ON THE RECORD: As Chase takes aim at The Ocho on Sunday, punter Kevin Huber ties Ring of Honor cornerback Ken Riley with the most games played in Bengals history with 207. With McPherson and running back Joe Mixon (COVID list) out, two big team records are safe. Mixon finished with 16 touchdowns, one shy of the club record. And with Elliott Fry kicking in his third NFL game, McPherson finished a field goal shy of the single-season scoring record.

With five points, the Bengals zoom past the 1988 AFC champs' club record of 448 points.

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