"Sky was the limit for NFL quarterbacks this season,'' a
Unless you were Palmer, two-time Pro Bowler, often mentioned in the same first class with
As the Bengals limp into the playoffs against the New York Jets on Saturday, reputation would suggest Cincinnati's biggest edge should be at QB. Seven-year vet Palmer over rookie
For lots of reasons, many of them reasonable, the Bengals have
"We're a running football team,'' said Palmer. "It'd be nice to throw for 4,000 yards. But if you're better off running for 1,300 because that's what wins games, that's what matters.''
Give Palmer an A-plus in ego management. And given Cincinnati's opponent Saturday, the Bengals don't fear a shootout. The Jets' defense is beastly, but Sanchez scares no one. And yet the best teams throw the ball, effectively and often. Barely two years ago, No. 9 was on his way toward being the passer everyone thought he'd be when the Bengals took him No. 1 overall out of USC. Now, he's a guy with an average QB Rating (83.6), whose yards per attempt (6.6) is 18th in the league.
"His numbers just are not good,'' says
"His passer rating is a career low [for a full season],'' says Byrne. "His average yards per attempt is not winning football.''
• A young and inexperienced offensive line;
Lewis decided he'd take his chances with a good running game and a defense that had the potential to be solid. He would play more like 1969 than 2009, and if that meant clipping his quarterback's pricey wing, so be it. Three yards and a turfburn.
Who can argue? The Bengals won more than they lost for the second time in 19 years, went 6-0 in the division and have a home playoff game. The offensive line blocks well for
Meanwhile Henry, the Bengals' only deep threat, died tragically last month. They get nothing from their tight ends and Coles' decline has been steeper than anyone expected. That leaves
Go ahead, Nine, throw for 300.
"When you don't have the vertical threat, because you lost [Henry], you have a young receiver in
And yet, when he has had to throw, Palmer has been good enough to make you wonder why Lewis hasn't let him do it more. The bird still flies when Lewis opens the cage. Palmer threw for 314 yards and two TDs in a 27-24 loss at San Diego a month ago. He led long, late scoring drives against Denver, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Baltimore and Kansas City.
"I'd like to throw the ball a lot if that will help us win,'' Palmer said Tuesday. "In some instances, it would. In most instances, no. [We] go into a game expecting our defense is going to hold a team to 17 points. We get 20, we win. It's about winning, especially when you're a quarterback. You're judged on wins and losses, not yards or completion percentage or touchdown passes.''
Don't expect Lewis to open the cage Saturday. The guy who should be Cincinnati's best chance at winning will channel Trent Dilfer again. Jets coach
No, the time to let the bird fly this year has passed by the Bengals. They are who they are: Ohio State, 1969. The greatest throwing year in NFL history did not connect through Cincinnati. Erstwhile elite QB Carson Palmer will hand off a lot Saturday. The result will speak for itself.