Joe Mixon is leading the AFC in rushing with two games left after missing two games and yet he not only ended up as an alternate Pro Bowler but a third alternate. As they prepped for Sunday's game in Cleveland (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12) he admitted he thought he had a better chance than that.
"Yeah. Definitely. Why not?" asked Mixon, who takes in a four-yard lead over Denver's Phillip Lindsay, a rookie voted to the Pro Bowl. "First in the AFC. For sure. But I can't do anything about it. It's over with. They did their votes. I've got two games left to be the best Joe I can be."
"Everybody has an excuse, but at the end of the day let's be real. A lot of people miss two games. A lot of people play the full season. Stats don't lie. Carries and all that stuff don't lie."
But people are raving about how Mixon's maturity has grown in his second season and he showed it when he was asked about the disappointment.
"Definitely. It definitely was disappointing, but at the same time there are only two things you can do about it," Mixon said. "You can either go cry about it or you can go nut up and get ready for next year. I know next year I'm going to be a way better me. I'm looking forward to it, but at the same time I've got two more opportunities on the field and hopefully that will take care of itself. Congratulations to everybody who made it. It's a good accomplishment to have for sure. I'm focused on what I can do for our team."
One thing is for sure. Mixon figures to become the first Bengal to get at least 20 carries in three straight games since Jeremy Hill late in the 2016 season after he notched career-highs the last two weeks with 26 and 27. Mixon is 18 carries passing from passing Hill's 70 lugs in the last three games of the 2014 season and 24 from passing Cedric Benson's 76 in the last three games of the 2010 season. Bring on the load, he says.
"I feel great. Not sore," said Mixon, who was limited Wednesday with a wrist issue. "I've been waiting for it."
Left end Carlos Dunlap and three technique Geno Atkins came to the Bengals together in the 2010 draft, so Dunlap has been through most of Atkins' seven Pro Bowl seasons. Dunlap agrees that is worthy of a Pro Football Hall of Fame jacket.
"It should. I mean, seven Pro Bowls and being up there in Bengals history for sacks and all the consecutive Pro Bowls he's had in a row," Dunlap said. "Him and A.J. (Green), I feel like that's as good an argument as any."
Vontaze Burfict returned to practice after missing the last two games with a concussion and went limited. The last time he came back after missing two games with a hip injury, middle linebacker Preston Brown (knee) had been put on injured reserve and Tez moved from WILL to the middle. Now he comes back and rookie Malik Jefferson is done with a toe injury. But the thinking is they may keep Burfict at WILL and Hardy Nickerson in the middle, where they put Nickerson last week. Particularly with WILL backer Jordan Evans (ankle) sitting out Wednesday.
Not practicing Wednesday were right guard Alex Redmond (illness) and back-up corner Tony McRae (hamstring).
Wide receiver continues to be thin. With Tyler Boyd (knee) not out there and not expected to play this week, John Ross (knee) went limited. Cornerback KeiVarae Russell, who couldn't play last week after injuring a finger in practice, went full Wednesday.
Photos from the Bengals' practice in preparation for the Week 16 matchup against the Cleveland Browns.