Cincinnati Bengals (1-1) at Seattle Seahawks (1-1)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:05 ET
TV: CBS, Gus Johnson, Steve Tasker
SERIES: 18th meeting -- The Bengals lead 9-8, including one postseason game. The series is tied 3-3 in games at Seattle. The postseason meeting came during the Seahawks' AFC stint, in 1988, with the Bengals winning 21-13 in a divisional playoff game at Cincinnati's former Riverfront Stadium. It was the Bengals' first postseason step en route to Super Bowl XXIII. The Bengals won the last meeting, 27-24 at Paul Brown Stadium on Oct. 26, 2003. It was Marvin Lewis' first Bengals season, and the win was a big one, as Seattle entered with a 5-1 record.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Look for the Bengals to attack with RB Rudi Johnson between the tackles after the Seahawks' interior linemen struggled last Sunday. If Johnson can draw a safety forward in run support, it will leave Seattle's undersized cornerbacks exposed to the big play against WRs Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh. ... The Seahawks rely heavily on timing in their offense, which has been slow to develop in both games. To keep pace with the Bengals, QB Matt Hasselbeck has to be efficient from the start. Attacking Cincinnati's secondary is enticing, but Alexander should have success with the Bengals thin at linebacker.
Bengals: Perry (hamstring) is out; LBs Ahmad Brooks (groin) and Lemar Marshall (groin), Houshmandzadeh (knee) and S Dexter Jackson (back) should play; C Eric Ghiaciuc (thumb) is more uncertain.
Seahawks: WR D.J. Hackett (ankle) is out; OLB Leroy Hill (foot) should return; RB Mo Morris (hip) is likely to miss another game.
FAST FACTS: The Bengals are 25-3 under coach Marvin Lewis when they win the turnover battle, 4-21 when they lose it. ... After intercepting Matt Leinart last Sunday, Seahawks MLB Lofa Tatupu battles another former USC teammate in the Bengals' Carson Palmer.
--MLB Ahmad Brooks (groin) did not practice. The team is hopeful he will be healthy enough to play Sunday, even with no work Wednesday or Thursday.
--LB Lemar Marshall (groin) has not practiced for two days. He is being counted on, though signed as a street free agent in late August, as a player who understands the defense.
--WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh (knee) was one of three players returning to full practice participation Thursday. He is vital to offensive success as Chad Johnson's No. 2.
--S Dexter Jackson, a starter, returned to practice. He has a back injury that kept him out Wednesday. He will be needed in run support against Seattle Shaun Alexander.
--C Eric Ghiaciuc (thumb) fully participated Thursday after being limited Wednesday. For everything going wrong in terms of depth at linebacker, the Bengals continue to get solid play from their backup offensive linemen, including center Alex Stepanovich, who started Sunday at Cleveland in place of Ghiaciuc.
--RT Willie Anderson (foot) did not practice Thursday. He participated fully Wednesday. He is not expected to practice on consecutive days all season.
--RB Maurice Morris (hip) continued to miss practice and is looking increasingly doubtful for the Cincinnati game.
--RB Shaun Alexander again practiced with a protective device on his sore left wrist. It's not expected to limit his action Sunday.
--WR Ben Obomanu did not practice Thursday as he continues to nurse a sore hamstring. He's running on the side, though.
--LB Kevin Bentley sat out Thursday's practice with a minor back injury.
--RT Sean Locklear missed part of Wednesday's practice with a tender knee, but returned to full duty Thursday.
INSIDE THE CAMPS:
The Bengals are thin at linebacker, so thin that Dhani Jones won't have the luxury of a break-in period on special teams. Signed Tuesday to a one-year contract, the former Giants and Eagles starter, cut by the Saints at the end of the preseason, possibly could see action on defense.
The news Thursday was not good for the Bengals.
Starting middle linebacker Ahmad Brooks, important to the run defense, did not practice for the second day in a row because of a groin injury. Neither did Lemar Marshall, who also has a groin injury. Marshall was signed in August after a surprise release by the Redskins.
But it's not just injury that's hurting the Bengals at linebacker. It's depth and familiarity, or the lack of familiarity.
Three of the seven linebackers are new since the team broke training camp Aug. 16 at Georgetown, Ky.: Jones, Marshall and Anthony Schlegel (Jets).
Holdovers Landon Johnson and Caleb Miller are healthy and will start. There is hope Brooks and Marshall can play. Jones took the roster spot of Andre Frazier, waived Tuesday and claimed by the Steelers. Rashad Jeanty, the projected starter on the strong side, is out for a couple of more weeks with a shin problem that needed surgery in late August to correct.
"You adjust," Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said this week when asked about the spate of injuries at linebacker. "Guys get injured every week in the NFL and you've got to adjust as a team, and move forward, and step the next guy up, and move on. That has no bearing whatsoever."
Jones visited earlier this week.
The Bengals also held tryouts for former college linebackers Terna Nande (Miami of Ohio) and Kevis Coley (Southern Mississippi).
With Cincinnati visiting on Sunday, Seahawk scoach Mike Holmgren was questioned about his take on the end-zone antics of Bengals receiver Chad Johnson.
"I like Chad, actually," Holmgren said of the flamboyant Johnson. "We usually chat (before) the times we've played. He's very cordial; he's a good guy ... I'm not a big fan of the other stuff, though; I don't like our guys doing it."
Holmgren stressed that was only his opinion, but it reflects his approach to running his team.
"I'm preaching unselfishness all the time and more 'team' than 'individual,'" he said. "But that's me, that's the way I think. Let's just play football and stay within our game, concentrate and don't get into any other extracurricular stuff."
Asked what would happen to a Seahawks player if he performed in the end zone as Johnson sometimes does, fullback Mack Strong said, "His days would be numbered. You don't see any of our receivers doing that stuff, do you?"
Still, the Seahawks players are amused by Johnson.
"I think it's comedy," Strong said. "When you see that stuff on ESPN, you've got to laugh. He's done some stuff that is memorable. The thing is, he's a helluva player and there's nothing malicious with him."
Receiver Nate Burleson, in fact, admires Johnson's passion, and can understand why fans are fascinated by his antics.
"Nowadays, it's hard to find somebody who makes it so easy to see that he really loves his job," Burleson said. "So many people work 9 to 5 and really don't like what they're doing. But here's a guy who really enjoys his job."