The Cincinnati Bengals host Carson Palmer and the Oakland Raiders this Sunday -- a game most of us had circled on our calendars.
You know what focused professional athletes say. The most important game is always the next one. This Bengals squad must live that with that mantra all season, because one stumble, one more loss can axed postseason ambitions into a six-foot grave. And perhaps the most circled date on the Bengals calendar from fans is one that's taking obvious note within the Bengals locker room. The next one.
"We've got Oakland and a good friend of ours, Carson Palmer, coming to town," defensive tackle Domata Peko said when asked about stringing together a run. "We were just talking about him. Getting after him. Getting our hands on him."
Yet our early look shows that Cincinnati's offense could benefit the most. The Oakland Raiders have allowed 135 points in the past three games, or 45 points per game against the Buccaneers (42), Ravens (55) and Saints (38).
During the 2010 NFL Conference Championship weekend, ESPN NFL Insider Chris Mortensen reported that Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer demanded a trade or would "play the retirement card."
We won't go into detail but the implication dramatically changed the Bengals for the better. Cincinnati drafted Andy Dalton in the second round of the 2011 NFL draft, received multiple high-round picks during a midseason trade sending Palmer to Oakland. And one of those picks resulted in starting guard Kevin Zeitler (the pick was traded back to No. 27 for him and a third round pick this year) with another second round pick for the 2013 NFL draft.
The Bengals are 14-12 in the regular season since Dalton took over, whereas Palmer is 7-12 in 19 starts with Oakland since last year -- including a 3-7 record in 2012.