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Scouts Inc.: Palmer's health key to Bengals success

Palmer's health is the determining factor for the Bengals this season. Up to this point, all the information is positive about Palmer's return. If he is somehow able to become the player he was before his injury and be ready for Week 1, the Bengals are a Super Bowl contender. If he can't make it back promptly and is tentative once he returns, Cincinnati could finish last in the AFC North. His presence is that significant.

Backup Anthony Wright isn't half as good as Palmer. If he is forced to take a significant amount of snaps, Cincinnati is in big trouble. Before the Bengals' Week 5 bye, they go to Kansas City and Pittsburgh, while also hosting New England and Cleveland. If they start out 1-3, some of those poor character players Cincinnati has made a habit of bringing in could rock the boat and make coach Marvin Lewis' job extremely difficult. Also, no team finishes the season with a more difficult final three games -- at Indianapolis, at Denver and Pittsburgh at home.

This all sounds very negative, but the transformation of the Bengals' roster and the team confidence that Lewis has instilled is remarkable. Few quarterbacks have as good a supporting cast as Palmer (or Wright) has in Cincinnati.

With a healthy Palmer, the Bengals can pick defenses apart with underneath routes or they can get six very quickly on a bomb to Chad Johnson -- few throw the deep ball as well as Palmer. They also feature a physical running attack with two solid backs and an offensive line that is talented, experienced and loaded with starters who will be playing for a new contract after the season.

The defense has been gashed by the inside run, and there probably isn't a worse weakness to have in this division, but the acquisition of Sam Adams is gigantic, and Cincinnati's young linebackers have quickly gained valuable experience. Lewis is an outstanding defensive mind who confuses quarterbacks and forces turnovers as well as any coach in the game. The Bengals lack a feared pass-rusher, but Lewis could use a lot more 3-4 fronts, which now fit their personnel better than their standard 4-3.

This could be an all-or-nothing season for the Bengals. There is no questioning the overall talent level and the team finally got a taste of winning last season, but wins will be difficult to come by if Palmer is watching from the sidelines.

(ESPN.com Insider)

Rucker, the third Bengal dealing with legal issues, is charged with two misdemeanor counts of spousal battery and two counts of vandalism.

Enquirer.com
LA Times
LA Daily News

Something completely irrelevant, the AP recap of the Reds thrilling win last night had a confusing sentence.

Phillips took a strike, fouled one off and took another strike before he hit a lower fastball back up the middle to drive in Kearns and pinch-runner Quinton McCracken, putting the Reds in front 6-5. Wagner (3-1) blew his fourth save in 18 opportunities."
Apparently three strikes doesn't mean you're out... of course, this didn't really happen. See I told you, completely irrelevant.