It’s hard, at this moment, not to jump on the Carson Palmer bandwagon.
I saw the game Monday night and Palmer not only looked healthy, but he looked like one of the top five quarterbacks in the league.
He’s a great player, and he will be for a long time, barring another injury. While I still find some of his actions hard to stomach (shaking hands and smiling with O.J. Simpson? Was he alive 10 years ago?), I can’t deny his ability on the field.
With the questions about Palmer’s health all but answered, and the fact Cincinnati destroyed Green Bay Monday night, Cincinnati has emerged as one of the picks to win the AFC.
I cannot jump on that bandwagon. Cincinnati may win a high number of regular season games, but I don’t see them as anything more than a one-and-out team in the playoffs.
Some may see this as sour grapes from a bitter Browns fan. Maybe it is.
But the Bengals have yet to convince anyone they can play solid defense. Yes, Cincinnati won 11 games in 2005. But they gave up at least 27 points six times in the regular season. While the high-octane offense was strong enough to overcome that in many games, it wasn’t enough when the playoffs started.
People in Cincinnati have already started the “what would have happened?” game about Palmer’s injury in the playoff game against Pittsburgh. Some have speculated if Palmer did not go down, the Bengals might have prevailed and perhaps advanced all the way to the Super Bowl. But Pittsburgh proved how good they were in the following weeks. Yes, Cincinnati had a 10-0 lead at one point, but the Steelers had the better defense. Cincinnati’s defense yielded 31 points to the Steelers. I don’t know if Palmer staying in would have meant a Cincinnati win, but it would have been difficult.
So, now it’s 2006. Palmer’s great, but what about the defense? Cincinnati’s run defense was the big problem. The Bengals tried to combat that by signing defensive tackle Sam Adams. I was going to make a joke about how they should have signed the 18th century patriot, since he’s probably younger. A check of his profile, however, shows the new Bengal is just 33, so he probably has a few years left. Still, it might not be a stretch to say the Bengals have the worst defense in the AFC North, with the Browns’ improved personnel in the 3-4 defense, and the Ravens’ perennially strong squad.
The offense will probably be enough to outrun those problems. But after that, it’s unclear if the Bengals can become serious contenders.