Bengals' fate attached to A.J. Green

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green (18) catches a 36-yard touchdown pass under pressure...

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green (18) catches a 36-yard touchdown pass under pressure from Pittsburgh Steelers' Troy Polamalu (43) and Ryan Clark (25) during the first half of play in their NFL football game at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio, November 13, 2011. (REUTERS/John Sommers II)

BILL LANKHOF, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:43 PM ET

Another week; another chance for the Cincinnati Bengals to prove this season hasn’t all been a mirage.

The Bengals, 6-3, are in the middle of a five-week schedule that ranges somewhere between sadistic and murderous. It includes two games against division-leading Pittsburgh, now 7-3, Baltimore, also 6-3, and AFC-leading Houston. This week they get the schizoprhenic Ravens. And, who knows which one of their multiple personalities shows up. The one that throttled the Texans, New York Jets and Steelers? Or, the one that played paddy-cake with Jacksonville and the Seahawks?

If it is the former, the Bengals are in for a heap of hurt. The Ravens don’t look consistent enough, and they haven’t found an offensive identity that makes them serious Super Bowl contenders, but they are still very good. Especially when they remember they’ve got Ray Rice to run the ball.

But last Sunday he had five carries. So, evidently, they have a bad memory.

Not to mention, bad special teams.

In Sunday’s loss to Seattle, Baltimore returner Dave Reed fumbled away two kickoffs, Sam Koch shanked a 28-yard punt and Billy Cundiff missed two field goals. They’ve also surrendered a 107-yard kickoff return touchdown to the Jets’ Joe McKnight and an 82-yard punt return touchdown to the Cardinals’ Patrick Peterson.

So, the Bengals are in with a chance after falling to the Steelers last Sunday. But that chance comes with one proviso; A.J. Green must be healthy enough to play. Right now, even he doesn’t know. Green injured his knee on a 36-yard touchdown catch against the Steelers. He didn’t play the second half and, asked Wednesday if he could play this weekend, Green told the Cincinnati Enquirer, “I don’t know. It’s going to be a game-time decision.”

Quarterback Andy Dalton without Green is like a jockey without a racehorse. Going nowhere fast.

He stretches the field for the Bengals. When Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell replaced him, Dalton was unable to go deep. Green leads NFL rookies in receptions (41), receiving yards (635) and receiving touchdowns (six). Furthermore, when he’s in the game it also opens up areas that make other parts of the offence work. When he’s not on the field, the Bengals don’t have a wing and a prayer.

PAIN IN BUFFALO

The Bills desperately need a win Sunday against Miami to stop the downward spiral. They may have to do it without star receiver Stevie Johnson.

Johnson has a shoulder injury sustained late in last week’s loss to Dallas and didn’t practise Wednesday. “We hope we’ll get him out there a little bit Thursday and a little bit Friday and he’ll be ready to go Sunday,” coach Chan Gailey said. “That’s what we hope. There’s no structural damage, so Johnson still has a good chance to suit up. We’ll know more later in the week.”

The secondary could also be without George Wilson, who suffered a shoulder stinger. He hopes to practise Thursday but the club activated Josh Nesbitt as a potential replacement.

The Bills’ lack of depth was beginning to show the past few weeks. “We have good players. The problem is we don’t have experienced depth. They’re all young and having to learn on the fly,” said Gailey.

WHAT’S WITH MICHAEL VICK?

Nobody seems to know.

Yes, he’s got sore ribs. At least that’s what coach Andy Reid said. There’s speculation it could keep him out of the game against the Giants.

On the other hand, it never looked like he was sore last week even though the injury supposedly happened early in the game.

There are those who suspect it was just another bit of soap opera with Reid trying to deflect attention from the DeSean Jackson suspension. When Reid sat him out for missing a meeting he may have won the psychological mind game. But he lost the tactical war by limiting what his offence could do without Jackson in the lineup. “I’m not going to believe Vick won’t play until I see him not jog out there,” said Giants coach Tom Coughlin via ProFootballTalk.com Wednesday.

UNGUARDED OPTIMISM

Brian Walters has made a big impression since joining the Patriots. “He’s earned every bit of his respect here,” said Bill Belichick, of Walters, who has teamed with Logan Mankins to protect Tom Brady in the absence of centre Dan Koppen. “He’s tough, he’s a good football player. He’s really made some outstanding plays, individual plays that you don’t see many other players at that position make. He’s a high-quality player and a high-quality individual. He’s very unselfish, team-oriented.”

In other words, everything just short of sainthood by the sounds of it.

QUICK HITS

Running back Mike Goodson (hamstring) has had a dreadful season. First he lost his job in the backfield, then he was taken off the return team for fumbles and now he has become the 12th Carolina Panther to be placed on injured reserve ... Jason Avant and Steve Smith practised in place of Jeremy Maclin (shoulder) Wednesday ... With several head coaching jobs likely to come vacant, Panthers offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski is likely to be a candidate several teams will consider ... Ahmad Bradshaw (foot) didn’t practise Wednesday and is expected to miss Sunday’s game ... Both Denver and the Jets could be without running backs for their game Thursday. Willis McGahee remains questionable with a hamstring while the Jets’ LaDainian Tomlinson (knee) will sit out ... Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald, Saints safety Roman Harper and Bears return man Devin Hester have been named the NFC’s players of the week. Fitzgerald got the first offensive player of the week award of his career after a sensational seven-catch, 146-yard, two-touchdown game. For Harper, it was his second award this year.


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