That's because several players who've been dealing with nagging injuries that cost them much of the preseason are expected to play this week. The most notable of which is defensive end Michael Johnson. After re-joining the Bengals this offseason, Johnson went down with what looked to be a major knee injury early on in training camp.
Thankfully, it turned out to be a sprained MCL, though it was serious enough to keep him out the rest of camp and all four preseason games. Knee injuries like he experienced can linger throughout the year if not given enough time to rest and fully recover from, and the Bengals aren't going to take any chances with a player as important as Johnson.
That's why it was surprising to see Johnson listed as probable on the team's final injury report released on Friday. It essentially means Johnson is going to play Sunday and probably get significant snaps. Though he may be a little rusty, having Johnson back on the edge in this defense is a huge upgrade for a unit that finished dead last in sacks a year ago.
Also listed as probable to play Sunday is second-year cornerback Darqueze Dennard. He suffered a groin injury before the team's first preseason game against the Giants, and re-aggravated it during the game, leading him to miss the rest of the preseason. Dennard was having a good showing in training camp, just as was the case last year when he was a rookie.
Unfortunately, in 2014 Dennard suffered a hip injury during a special teams play against the Jets (second preseason game) that knocked him out he rest of the preseason and the regular-season opener. That ultimately helped lead to Dennard falling behind the eight ball and only getting 77 snaps as a rookie. This season, he's poised for a larger role on the defense.
Another key Bengals player listed as probable to play Sunday is linebacker Emmanuel Lamur. After suffering a hamstring injury in the Week 2 preseason game versus the Bucs, Lamur missed the last two preseason contests and many corresponding practices. He practiced every day this week and will likely be the starting SAM backer on Sunday.
Starting safety Reggie Nelson is listed as probable to play after leaving practice early Wednesday with a groin injury. Nelson was seen working on the exercise bike to open Thursday's session, but, he eventually put his helmet and jersey on for practice. The injury looks like it was nothing major.
Also listed as probable on the final injury report were Andrew Whitworth (back), Leon Hall (back) and Carlos Dunlap (illness). Dunlap and Whitworth missed Wednesday's session but look as though they are fine for Sunday. Hall missed the final preseason game but practiced every day this week.
The one Bengal listed as questionable Sunday is Josh Shaw. The rookie corner suffered a groin injury recently that could prevent him from making his NFL debut Sunday. That could explain why Cincinnati opted to keep six corners on their final 53-man roster with veteran Chris Lewis-Harris being the final one.
Rookie defensive tackle Marcus Hardison was ruled out of Sunday's contest due to a knee injury suffered in practice this week. The fact that Hardison suffered the injury Wednesday, didn't practice once afterward and has already been ruled out is a bit concerning, especially since it involves his knee. No further information on the injury has been released.