Updated: 7 p.m.
The Bengals are literally turning up the heat for the postseason.
With the first flurries of Thursday's snow turning into swirls, head coach Marvin Lewis moved up his late morning practice an hour and 15 minutes to 9:45 a.m. to beat the elements for the Bengals' final practice before Saturday's 4:30 p.m. Wild Card game against the Jets at Paul Brown Stadium.
After working the past two days indoors at Wall2Wall in Cincinnati's northern suburbs, Lewis put the Bengals on the PBS game field in preparation for the frigid conditions predicted for game time. But even though the surface is the same FieldTurf product used by the Jets, wide receiver Chad Ochocinco and his fellow receivers shouldn't experience the same "mini ice rinks" that caused him to slip in pregame warmups and bruise his knee at The Meadowlands Sunday night.
PBS and Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium are the NFL's only facilities in which artificial fields are heated. With five miles of piping running under the field to keep the rubber inlays heated, Bengals officials say the field should have the same feel it has in July even though the air is supposed to feel like seven degrees with wind chill at game time, according to the National Weather Service in Wilmington, Ohio. That is 18 degrees under partly cloudy skies with a chance of flurries with a wind out of the north and west at about 10 miles per hour for that seven wind chill.
It won't even be the coldest game ever at PBS. When the Bengals beat the Jaguars, 17-14, on Dec. 17, 2000, there was a minus-20 degree wind chill. And it sounds like Saturday won't even be as bad as it was in The Meadowlands Sunday night, where it was minus-4 wind chill at kickoff.
"Perfect," The Ocho said after Thursday's practice. "It can rain or snow on our field, it doesn't matter."
It wasn't so perfect Sunday night in Jersey, where not only The Ocho fell down, but fellow receivers Andre Caldwell and Jerome Simpson went down on what was described as a surface as hard as a parking lot. That wasn't the only reason why the Bengals had no yards passing, but it was in the mix. Caldwell went down even before The Ocho.
"It was still in the back of your mind," Caldwell said. "The field was ice. You couldn't stop. It took away our strength. You couldn't get open like you wanted so you could create seperation. The field condition going to be good out here. We'll be able to create separation and get open. The field's fine. It's heated. It's no factor at all."
The plan in Cincinnati and Baltimore had been to play on natural grass, but when both teams abandoned it for the predictability of synthetic turf the underground heating system stayed. They turned it on at PBS about a month ago and it runs non-stop at 140 degrees.
Left tackle Andrew Whitworth said the receivers weren't the only guys struggling with footing and he thought it had some impact on what happened, although it wasn't the only reason.
"By the beginning of the game, the end zone was so frozen we could hardly do warmups in them," he said. "It was definitely weird. I think a little bit. I think guys were a litle weirded out at how slick the field was."
Lewis shotened the usual 90-minute practice 48 hours before a game to an hour and coming off the field he said the footing should be fine. All his players looked to be suited up for the second straight day, but he said he won't make any call until Saturday. Only defensive tackle Tank Johnson (foot), running back Larry Johnson (knee), and safety Tom Nelson (knee) were limited. Safety Chris Crocker (ankle), left end Robert Geathers (knee), and defensive tackle Shaun Smith (ankle) went full go Thursday after being limited Wednesday.
Jets middle linebacker David Harris (ankle) was the only starter that was limited Thursday.
T-REX.: T-Rex is on the loose.
The Bengals found themselves in the middle of the New York tabloid wars Thursday as their representatives hovered around the Bengals for a response to Jets head coach Rex Ryan's assertion that his team should be the Super Bowl favorite.
It was pretty staid stuff compared to the talkative Jets. They got their best sound bite from a wide receiver, but it wasn't the one they thought. If you never thought you'd hear Chad Ochocinco decline an invite for a war of words, you missed history Thursday. Andre Caldwell didn't give them Back Page stuff, but he wasn't bad.
"I don't think it's true. I don't think they should be the Super Bowl favorite. They've got to get through us first," said Caldwell, who played for a pretty loquacious guy at Florida. "(Gators head coach Urban Meyer) would say a lot of that, but not outside. That's something new. I wouldn't say we were the favorite the way we got whipped last week."
The Jets are talkers. There's not only Ryan, but linebacker Bart Scott and safety Kerry Rhodes.
"It makes you laugh, giggle, makes you go after them a little harder," Caldwell said. "Make them eat their words after."
Asked if Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis would make his team such favorites, left tackle Andre Whitworth said, "We expect him to be humble, know what he has, but he wouldn't tell people about it. Every team has their style. That's their style. They like to chat like that. That's what gets them motivated.
"If they're that confident, it's definitely insulting, I guess you could say. You would think that a team would respect you and not say they were better than you."
Running back Cedric Benson joined The Ocho and declined to T it up with Rex. Safety Chris Crocker noted that the Bengals don't say much because "Chad talks enough for all of us. We let him do the talking. We show up."
"I don't give a rat's (bleep) about what he says," Crocker said of Ryan. "One thing I will say is they definitely have our attention. We do respect them. I feel like they should be feeling good. They beat us. This is the way this game goes when you're winning and you're riding the high horse. You're that much more confident. It's OK. It's all right. I'm sure they're confident. That's OK, but we're still confident also."
Lewis seemed to understand where his old defensive line coach is coming from: "If it's Rex's opinion, he's got to be a favorite, right?"
TUBE TRIUMPH:The Bengals' improbable run to the AFC North title has been a big hit with the viewers. They rose from 20th to fifth in the NFL TV ratings for a 48-percent increase over last season that led the league. New Orleans, up 42 percent, was the second most improved. The Bengals averaged a 36.5 rating/61 share this season compared to a 24.7/47 last year. That means 61 percent of the TVs in Cincinnati in use were tuned to Bengals games.