Fearless Prediction: Bengals-Chargers
KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET
TV: CBS (Jim Nantz, Phil Simms)
KEYS TO THE GAME: The concern for the Bengals is the
startling lack of a downfield passing attack that has contributed
to the offense scoring just five touchdowns in its past 69 drives.
RB Cedric Benson is the engine, and the Chargers’ run defense is
soft up the middle as San Diego is on its fourth different starting
nose tackle. But Bengals QB Carson Palmer must find reliable
targets outside of WR Chad Ochocinco. Chargers QB Philip Rivers is
third in the NFL with 13 completions of 40-plus yards, and there
will be a compelling matchup as he works against the Bengals’
excellent young secondary.
FAST FACTS: The Bengals have committed 38 penalties over the
past four games. … San Diego has an eight-game winning streak and
has won 16 consecutive games in December.
- DT Tank Johnson was limited in practice because of a foot
injury. He is expected to play on Sunday.
- RB Brian Leonard had full participation despite being listed
with a calf injury. He is expected to play on Sunday.
- HB Bernard Scott was limited in practice because of turf toe.
His status for the rest of the week is 50-50.
- CB Morgan Trent had full participation despite being listed
with a knee injury.
- S Kyries Hebert had full participation despite being listed
with a knee injury.
- OLB Shawne Merriman (foot) didn’t work for the second
straight day. He probably will start Sunday, but his play could
- WR Legedu Naanee (foot) didn’t practice after working on
- C Nick Hardwick (ankle) didn’t practice and won’t play this
- CB Quentin Jammer (toe) practiced and will start Sunday.
- OLB Shaun Phillips (ankle) practiced after resting Wednesday,
and will start Sunday.
- S Eric Weddle (knee) practiced and will start after missing
- P Mike Scifres (groin) worked and is fine.
Inside The Camps
The Bengals have already dealt with plenty of adversity with
the death of the wife of defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer and the
tsunamis in American Samoa, which affected the team’s Samoan
But nothing can prepare a team or organization for what they
faced on Thursday morning — the death of one of their own.
Chris Henry, 26, died Thursday at 6:36 a.m. in Charlotte,
N.C., after suffering head injuries in an accident on Wednesday.
Carson Palmer informed the team of Henry’s passing before their 10
Palmer was one of Henry’s most vocal supporters, often
calling him Randy Moss Jr. during off-season interviews. The
quarterback and receiver even shared a ride to training camp in
“Chris was a guy that I believe and our team believes was
heavily misunderstood,” Palmer said. “There was a lot of
speculation about who he was, but the only guys that knew Chris and
knew how good of a heart he had, how kind he was, how gentle he
was, are the guys in our locker room, the guys who were close to
him, his family.”
To honor Henry during Sunday’s game at San Diego, the team
will wear a helmet decal with Henry’s number and coaches will wear
pins that look like the decal. Plans for Henry’s funeral were
Almost everyone spoke about how Henry’s public persona,
which was known more for the five arrests in 28 months from 2005-08
than his on-field ability, was different than the person they knew
in the locker room.
The most devastated in the locker room was Chad Ochocinco,
who had tears in his eyes as he described his last conversation
with Henry, which happened Tuesday night. They discussed last
Sunday’s game at Minnesota and Henry offered some words of
Ochocinco wore a No. 15 jersey during Thursday’s practice at
Paul Brown Stadium.
“He was doing everything right, he was doing everything
right,” Ochocinco said. “My grandma always says you never question
the man upstairs on decisions he makes … everyone makes mistakes,
but … I don’t see how Chris was supposed to go already,
especially when he was on the right path.”
On Nov. 9, after what looked to be a season of much promise,
Henry’s season prematurely ended after eight games when he
fractured his left forearm during the second quarter against
Baltimore. He finished the season with 12 receptions for 236 yards
and two touchdowns.
Before the injury, coach Marvin Lewis saw Henry as the
happiest he had been in a while. In the week leading up to the Oct.
25 game against Chicago, Henry had been suffering from the flu and
was not in the team hotel the night before the game. But Henry
started to feel better on Saturday and came to the stadium on
Sunday ready to work.
“I watched him work out on the field and they didn’t really
do much but stand and catch. I said no, no, I need to see him run,”
Lewis said. “So he ran routes — Jordan (Palmer) I think was
throwing — and he came over and sat with me on the photographer’s
stand at the end of the end zone and he said ‘Coach, I feel better
than I’ve felt in the last month.’ I said, ‘You know what? You look
that way, so you suit up today.’
“And just the grin on his face because again, when Chris
spoke and talked, you got to see the genuine person. And a lot of
times Chris was very quiet and he let everybody speak for him too
much. And until Chris turned the corner is when he began to speak
up himself and distance himself from the people that were dragging
him down and express his real thoughts and feelings. And I thought
that day, he did that.”
Henry had two receptions for 26 yards in that game, a 45-10
Bengals victory, including a 9-yard touchdown in the first quarter.
Henry was in Cincinnati last weekend for an exam by the
team’s medical staff. With no rehabilitation for his injury beyond
periodic adjustments of his cast, he was cleared at that point to
return to Charlotte.
Henry was drafted by the Bengals in the third round in 2005.
He was known as a player with immense talent, but his promise was
marred by legal problems and three NFL suspensions totaling 14
During his first three seasons, his run-ins with the law
included drug charges to gun possession and DUI. He served jail
time for drinking in a Covington hotel room with underage girls. He
was remembered more for that than his game-changing touchdowns or
the team-leading nine TDs he scored in 2006.
Born May 17, 1983, Henry’s five-year totals were 119
receptions for 1,826 yards and 21 touchdowns in 55 games.
How the team responds in Sunday’s game against the Chargers
along with the three remaining regular-season games remains to be
seen. Lost in all the tragedy is the fact that the 9-4 Bengals
would clinch the AFC North with a win over San Diego or a loss by
Baltimore. The game also has the second seed in the AFC on the line
and a possible first-round bye.
Two Chargers of note — but not very well known — were able
to practice on Thursday.
Defensive linemen Alfonso Boone (knee) and Travis Johnson
(groin) both worked at the same time for the first time in nearly
Boone missed last week’s game in Dallas; Johnson usually
takes one day of a week to rest his ailment.
The Chargers figure to need all their defensive linemen when
facing the visiting Bengals on Sunday. Boone, at end, and Johnson,
at tackle, being available has to help.
With the Bengals featuring a running game with Cedric Benson
and old San Diego foe Larry Johnson at the ready, the Chargers are
expecting Cincinnati to stay on the ground.
That not only keeps the Chargers’ potent offense on the
sidelines, but it also attacks San Diego’s biggest weakness.
The Chargers are ranked No. 21 against the run, an area they
have had trouble shoring up since losing Pro Bowl defensive tackle
Jamal Williams in the season-opener.
But the run-stoppers got a dose of confidence when stopping
the Cowboys on a goal-line stand, stopping them on three straight
rushing players from the 1. That same unit will be tested again
PREDICTION: Chargers 24-17