Gameday: Bengals (10-3) at Lions (4-9)

Bengals' QB Carson Palmer wants to get back on track after just 93 passing yards last Sunday, but he needs to be wary of the Lions' secondary -- and CB Dre Bly in particular.

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Cincinnati Bengals (10-3) at Detroit Lions (4-9)
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GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:05 ET
GAMEDATE: 12/18/05
SURFACE: FieldTurf
TV: CBS, Gus Johnson, Steve Tasker
SERIES: 9th meeting - The Bengals lead the series 5-3 with the Lions. The Bengals are 3-1 in Detroit, 3-0 at the Silverdome and 0-1 at Tiger Stadium. The Lions won the first two games in the series (1970 and '74) but the Bengals won 5 of the last 6. The last meeting was a 31-27 Bengals victory at the Silverdome in 2001.
2005 RANKINGS: Bengals: offense 4th (11th rush, 6th pass); defense 24th (20th rush, 22nd pass). Lions: offense 27th (21st rush, 27th pass); defense 18th (26th rush, 10th pass)

PREDICTION: Bengals 24-16

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Bengals might have clinched the AFC North title by kickoff depending on what Pittsburgh does, but they must remain focused because they are battling Denver for the all-important first-round playoff bye. QB Carson Palmer wants to get back on track after just 93 passing yards last Sunday, but he needs to be wary of the Lions' secondary -- and CB Dre Bly in particular. Cincinnati's biggest mistake would be to lose the turnover battle and give Detroit's struggling offense and favors. The Bengals are rushing the passer and stopping the run better, which is a dangerous combination for the Lions' porous offensive line. The status of RB Kevin Jones is uncertain, but the Lions need to attempt to establish the running game regardless. They moved the ball against Green Bay last Sunday, but are still struggling to produce in the red zone. Wasted opportunities against a far inferior team would be fatal.

FAST FACTS: Bengals: Can clinch their first division title since 1990 with a win or a Pittsburgh loss. ... Have already won their most games since winning 12 in 1988, the last time they reached the Super Bowl. ... Are 22-31-1 all-time indoors. Lions: Are averaging 13.75 points when QB Jeff Garcia starts and 16.44 when Joey Harrington starts. ... TE Marcus Pollard needs four receptions to join Tony Gonzalez (634) and Kyle Brady (327) as the only active tight ends with 300 for their careers.

PERSONNEL NEWS:
Bengals:
--DT Shaun Smith is expected to make his fourth consecutive start in place of LDT Bryan Robinson, whom Smith considers a mentor. Robinson is out with a sprained foot.
--RB Rudi Johnson (knee) is probable but did return to practice Thursday.
--DL Carl Powell (neck) was downgraded to out Thursday.
--SS Ifeanyi Ohalete (ribs) remained questionable and did not practice Thursday for the second day in a row.
--RB Chris Perry (ankle) is out indefinitely. He will not play Sunday at Detroit.
--DT John Thornton (ribs) remained probable but returned to practice Thursday.

Lions:
--RB Kevin Jones might be out of the Lions' lineup for the second time in three weeks, this time because of a hyperextended elbow, suffered when he became entangled with RG Damien Woody during a play early in the 16-13 Sunday night overtime loss at Green Bay. Although he had nothing torn or broken, Jones has not been able to participate fully in practice and is listed as doubtful.
--WR/KR Eddie Drummond, who has fought the injury bug through his four-year NFL career, is fighting it again this week. Drummond has missed three full games and is listed as doubtful for the Lions' Sunday game against Cincinnati because of a knee injury. Drummond, a Pro Bowl returner last year, has missed 23 games because of injuries in four years.
--WR Charles Rogers might be in uniform for a second consecutive game Sunday against Cincinnati if WR/KR Eddie Drummond is unable to play because of a knee injury. Interim coach Dick Jauron is dressing only four WRs and Rogers is no better than No. 5 on his list. Rogers has only six catches for 49 yards since serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance abuse program in mid-season.
--FS Jon McGraw, who started at FS Dec. 4 against Minnesota after Terrence Holt was put on injured reserve, might miss the Lions' game against Cincinnati on Sunday because of a recurring shoulder injury. McGraw was inactive with the injury in the Green Bay game earlier this week and aggravated it in practice this week.
--LB Nate Wayne is the latest in a string of LBs to go on the Lions' injury report. Wayne was expected to get extended duty Sunday against Cincinnati because of injuries to OLB Boss Bailey (out with an ankle injury) and MLB Earl Holmes (doubtful with a knee injury), but Wayne came up with a knee injury in practice this week. He is listed as probable but did not practice Thursday.

INSIDE THE CAMPS:
Bengals:
    The AFC North championship caps and T-shirts will be on the equipment truck and headed north to Detroit for the Bengals' game Sunday against the Lions.
    A Bengals victory would clinch the division title, the franchise's first since 1990. The Bengals also would clinch if Pittsburgh loses its early game at Minnesota.
    Coach Marvin Lewis has said there would no champagne in the locker room, calling it a Major League Baseball tradition.
    But leave it to wide receiver Chad Johnson to come up with an alternative plan, which he half-jokingly unveiled Thursday.
    "I've got some old Who-Dey beer (Hudepohl)," Johnson said. "I might end up drinking that. Seriously, I got some from a fan. It's old. The can is gray with orange lining."
    Then Johnson, laughing, said: "I'm going to hit Marvin with it first. 'Congratulations,' and throw the whole can at him. It's what we worked for. It's going to be exciting. I can't wait."
    Also on Thursday, Johnson gave Cleveland cornerback Leigh Bodden the first "yes" checkmark on his list of who stopped Johnson this season. There had been 12 consecutive "no" checkmarks.
    "I only had two catches. Therefore he gets a 'yes,'" Johnson said. "I strive for perfection, but I didn't get it. I'll probably finish out the season strong with the next three games and sell my checklist, so somebody can put it in their archives as one of the greatest achievements ever by a receiver."

Lions:
    The Lions aren't sure just what to expect from their Ford Field fans Sunday in the final home game of yet another disappointing season.
    At the last home game - a 21-16 loss to Minnesota - the fans chanted "Fire Millen" - aimed at team president Matt Millen - carried "Fire Millen" signs through the stands, booed quarterback Jeff Garcia and chanted "Jo-ey, Jo-ey" in support of quarterback Joey Harrington.
    With the local sports talk radio shows prodding the unhappy fans on, there is speculation that Sunday's game against the high-flying Cincinnati Bengals might become ugly if the Lions fall behind early.
    There has been talk of fans wearing orange to show their support for the Bengals instead of the Lions, and it has been suggested fans will wear "Fire Millen" tee shirts rather than carry signs, which are generally confiscated by Ford Field security.
    Millen has taken the brunt of the fans' displeasure since the firing of coach Steve Mariucci after the Thanksgiving Day loss to Atlanta. The Lions have a record of 20-57 in five seasons under Millen, who was given a five-year contract extension before the start of the current season.
    Garcia, who was the fans' favorite when he was recovering from a broken leg and Harrington was struggling early in the season, is now also feeling the wrath of the paying customers. And Harrington, now the backup, has regained some of his lost popularity as Garcia struggles.
Interim coach Dick Jauron says he understands the frustration of the Lions' fans.
    "These fans - because they are one of the older teams in the league - have supported us for a long time," Jauron said. "And they love the team, so when we are not doing well, they are going to let us know. And rightly so."
    Jauron said he might mention the situation to the players prior to the start of the game.
"We have talked about it before," Jauron said. "The only way to stop those kinds of things is to play and perform well for them."


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