If the Bengals defense comes back like kicker Mike Nugent has this week in practice, they'll be OK when they face the NFL's hottest offense Sunday (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12) in Indianapolis.
After missing the 36-yard chippie wide right at last Sunday's overtime gun in the 37-37 tie with Carolina at Paul Brown Stadium, Nugent hasn't missed a kick since.
"He's had a good bounce back week," said special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons after practice. "A great week."
Simmons revived Nugent's career when he arrived here in 2010 after three previous stops and when he opened this season with five straight field goals in the first half in Baltimore Opening Day, he was 84 percent as a Bengal (95-107) after being 79 percent elsewhere.
Now he's missed six of his last 12, but Simmons isn't panicking.
"I don't want to be too technical or over analytical about it," Simmons said. "Sometimes we overanalyze things that are sitting right in front of us and we try to cure ailments that don't need to be cured. We just have to tighten up the details of what he does. I think he'll continue to work on detailing everything he does. His alignment, his walk off, not overcompensating for wind, knowing that when he gets a good clean ball the ball is going to go straight."
A year ago this week, Nugent was in the middle of two huge kicks, his overtime winner in Buffalo and his winner at the gun in Detroit. A year ago Halloween he put the Bengals ahead on a 54-yard field goal with 1:24 left before the Dolphins tied it up and won in regulation.
And he hit two ice-cold kicks Sunday to put the Bengals ahead at the end of regulation and in overtime before the miss. Nugent chalked it up to being excited and going too fast. Simmons isn't ready to pull the plug.
"I've got a ton of faith and confidence in Mike. Mike's made a lot of pressure kicks for us since he's been here and the next one he gets I have the same amount of confidence," Simmons said, "Mike will be fine. We'll be all fine. When that opportunity comes again, he'll make the next one."
INJURY UPDATE: No sign of wide receiver A.J. Green (toe) again Thursday on the Paul Brown Stadium turf and he's looking at being ruled out as early as Friday for Sunday's game (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12) in Indianapolis, or, at the very least, doubtful.
Also expected not to play are middle linebacker Rey Maualuga (hamstring), SAM linebacker Emmanuel Lamur (shoulder), and defensive tackle Brandon Thompson (knee) and they weren't out there. Defensive lineman Wallace Gilberry (eye) was back in a limited role. For the second straight day, safety George Iloka (abdomen) and right tackle Andre Smith were also limited.
Left tackle Andrew Whitworth is expected to play, but he sat out for the second straight day Thursday. Usually he sits out one veteran's day a week to primarily rest his knee and he got another one Thursday. He did do stretching in the practice warmups. Left guard Clint Boling (knee) rested and right guard Mike Pollak returned.
Right guard Kevin Zeitler (calf) looks like he'll make his first start since Sept. 14 after working full for the second straight day.
Here's a look at a possible inactive list for Sunday: Green, Thompson, Maualuga, Lamur, defensive end Will Clarke, cornerback Chris Lewis-Harris, and center-guard T.J. Johnson. That way you'd have five receivers dressed with new addition Greg Little and five linebackers with the newest Bengal Nico Johnson active.
TIGHT SPOT: You don't have to be on the set of ESPN or NFL Network to realize the Bengals have had trouble covering tight ends the last two weeks.
And it won't get any easier down two linebackers against the Colts tandem of Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener that have combined for 52 catches and seven touchdowns for the NFL's No. 1 offense.
The Bengals have been rung by both species. The 6-3, 265-pound Allen is the big, physical Rob Gronkowski type that went for 100 yards two weeks ago in New England. The 6-6, 251-pound Fleener is the wide-receiver route runner type like Carolina's Greg Olsen, Carolina's leading receiver last Sunday in the 37-37 tie at PBS whose wide-open 13-yard TD catch off a throw-back pass tied the game at 31.
"I don't think we've done a good job getting bodies on them," said linebackers coach Matt Burke after Thursday's practice. "There's been some busted coverages and miscommunication, but we've also had guys running free in space. We need to body on body more, take the air out."
Look for Vincent Rey to reprise the role he played last year, when he filled in the middle brilliantly for Maualuga in a three-game stretch he racked up 36 tackles and in Baltimore became the first Bengal ever to have three sacks and interception in the same game.
Maybe his biggest contribution is he'll have the radio helmet backup to WILL backer Vontaze Burfict. Last week Maualuga had it backing up Burfict with the helmet after the Bengals had problems getting lined up in New England without Burfict.
"It's good to have somebody who's done it before. It settles the group down," said defensive coordinator Paul Guenther. "If you have somebody who hasn't done it before, it's harder."
Guenther indicated Rey may be looking at a similar stretch to last year.
"He'll have to play well for us for a good amount of time," Guenther said.
It sounds like it may be time for safety Taylor Mays, who has played nickel backer in the past. According to profootbalfocus.com, he's played just 14 snaps from scrimmage all season. He may get more than that Sunday.
NOT LITTLE USE: With the inactive list already crammed, offensive coordinator Hue Jackson may have new receiver Greg Little despite just three days of practice. And Jackson will use him.
"If Marvin (Lewis) thinks he can help us, we'll find a way to use him,' Jackson said. "I think he's got speed, he picks up things fast, he looks like a tough guy and can catch the ball."
POLLAK's VIEW: In the first three seasons of his career (2008-10), Bengals guard Mike Pollak was on Colts playoff teams, so he knows how talented teams win. Now he's going into a game against his old team playing for another division leader that's fifth in offense and sees some similarities.
"We've got the talent, but it's just not shooting yourself in the foot,' Pollak said before Thursday's practice. "That's the biggest thing. Penalties and turnovers. Those were big emphasis when I was in Indy and we were successful. That's a huge emphasis that Hue has brought back is the turnovers and not doing the stuff that hurts us in the game and not what they do to us. We've really rolled with how he wants the offense to be."
Of course those Colts and these Colts look nothing like each other. Pollak is an example of how things changed so quickly when Ryan Grigson replaced Bill Polian in the draft room. The quick, smaller Pollak was a second-round pick of the Polian-Peyton Manning regime. When they were gone, so was Pollak and pretty much everybody else.
"It's my first time back and it feels like a different team," Pollak said. "The number of guys I know that are still there I can count on one hand. Andrew (Luck) has been good for them. They had to make a business decision and they certainly haven't looked back. My understanding is the type of bodies and personnel were completely different than what the previous regime wanted. On defense we used to have a bunch of small, quick guys and now they're beefy guys up front and they wanted the same type of guys on the offensive line."
STILL WITH ELLEN: Bengals defensive tackle Devon Still is scheduled for a satellite interview Thursday night with Ellen DeGeneres that airs Friday at 4 p.m. on Channel 5's The Ellen Show.