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CINCINNATI (AP) — When the schedule came out, the Bengals saw what was happening in the fourth week and bristled.
A bye? So soon?
Teams prefer to get their week off later in the season, when they're worn down a bit. The Bengals' thinking has dramatically changed since. They're off this week, and the timing now seems perfect.
Cincinnati (3-0) could use a break to get healthy after injuries sapped the roster. The AFC's only undefeated team could emerge rested and even better.
A 33-7 win over the Titans on Sunday got Cincinnati off to its best start in eight years. The Bengals are one of only three unbeaten teams left in the league, along with Philadelphia and Arizona in the NFC. And they've stayed perfect despite missing a lot of important players.
After a week off, they'll be getting some of them back.
Pro Bowl linebacker Vontaze Burfict sat out the win Sunday with his second concussion in two weeks. Receiver Marvin Jones missed his third game with a broken bone in his left foot.
"Obviously I can't wait to get out there and share that same intensity," Jones said Monday.
The Bengals will return to action with a high-profile game: at New England on a Sunday night.
Right guard Kevin Zeitler is recovering from an injured right calf that has sidelined him indefinitely. Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Green gets a week to rest the injured big toe on his right foot that forced him to miss most of the Week 2 game. He returned Sunday and had six catches for 102 yards.
"It will be a good uplift for us to gain these guys back in practice, and for the opportunity for them to play in the next football game," coach Marvin Lewis said.
The Bengals have displayed their depth by winning despite the injuries. The offense has been hit particularly hard. Tight end Tyler Eiffert will miss at least half the season with an elbow injury. Backup tight end Alex Smith is out for the season with a biceps injury. Jones broke a bone in his left foot during training camp but is expected to rejoin practice soon.
"Knowing me, I can get ready pretty fast," Jones said. "It takes a couple of practices. That first practice is always, 'Oh, my gosh.' It doesn't matter how much conditioning you do on the side, nothing can replicate you actually going in there and consistently running routes and stuff like that."
The Bengals also are expecting to get more out of defensive tackle Geno Atkins with each game. Atkins tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee last Oct. 31 at Miami. He led the team with six sacks when he got hurt. The Bengals worked him in slowly during training camp.
Atkins has played between 41 and 49 snaps in each of the three games. He has no sacks and only three tackles but is holding his own in his limited role as he works his way back to full form.
"You just see his ability to play with power ... all the way through," Lewis said. "I think there at the end of the football game, he's still in there being an effective rusher.
"He's Geno. He's doing what he's asked to do."
Notes: Lewis said RB Rex Burkhead also could return to practice as he recovers from a preseason knee injury. ... The Bengals have had thousands of empty seats for each of their two home games. They drew 58,574 against the Falcons and 56,743 against the Titans, but both games were televised locally. Paul Brown Stadium seats 65,515. "We definitely notice it," Jones said. "It's hard not to. We have great fans and they're very passionate. Hopefully we can do something to change that. Hopefully we're doing stuff right now to change that. That's on them. We're doing our job on our end."
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