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Bengals QB Dalton expected to return Thursday from illness

CINCINNATI -- Rookie quarterback Andy Dalton missed practice Wednesday with the flu, leaving backup Bruce Gradkowski to run the Bengals' offense during another sub-freezing workout at Paul Brown Stadium.

Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said Dalton should be back Thursday, and the quarterback is expected to play Saturday at Houston's Reliant Stadium, where he has never lost. The second-round draft pick grew up in the Houston suburbs and played two games at the stadium in high school and another for TCU.

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The Bengals (9-7) will try to score their first playoff win since the 1990 season when they visit the Texans in Saturday's wild-card game. Reliant Stadium has a retractable roof, so weather won't be an issue.

For the first time since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, a playoff game will feature two rookie quarterbacks. T.J. Yates, a fifth-round pick, took over for the Texans after Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart were hurt, and he led the team to the playoffs.

Yates led a winning 80-yard touchdown drive in the final three minutes for a 20-19 victory over the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on Dec. 11. He and Dalton talked on the field afterward.

Notes: Safety Taylor Mays (hamstring) and DE Frostee Rucker (shoulder) also were among those missing practice for the Bengals. ... RB Cedric Benson (foot), center Kyle Cook (foot) and safety Chris Crocker (knee) were limited.

Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press

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