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Bengals Banter: Cincinnati isn't the only good team dealing with sellout issues

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First things first. We at Cincy Jungle will be supporting our great University of Cincinnati Bearcats Saturday as they take on -- and take it to -- the Pitt Panthers for the Big East championship as well as a BCS game and, if the planets align, a national championship. We'll have an open thread today a few minutes before the game starts. Join us. Won't you?

This week we wrote things about the team's passing game, pointing out Palmer's struggles, especially under pressure. Here's the thing. We're not criticizing Palmer. We're pointing out facts. And if anything, we're pointing out, sometimes a lot more than we'd like, that the Bengals offense has taken such a dramatic change from a finesse passing team to a power rushing offense. If you haven't noticed that by now, then keep coming to Cincy Jungle. Even though veteran readers groan, we mention it at least once a week.

That's not to say we believe that Palmer is losing anything. Nor do we think he's a detriment to the team. And for the love of god, we don't hate him either. Far from it. Palmer was Cincy Jungle's MVP of the Midseason. He's not putting up gaudy passing statistics, compared to his 16-game averages from 2005-2007. No. But he's doing things he hasn't done before. He's picking up first downs any way he can, most notably, his legs. Under the most pressure when the Bengals have to score to win, Palmer takes charge and leads the offense to a game winning score. He just wins games. I still believe Palmer is the MVP of this offense, if not the team, for his leadership and late-game heroics.

So when we criticize Palmer, don't think we're hating on the guy. We're just merely pointing out things we've observed at that moment. The general overview of the God of Golden Arms is a suffocating man-crush on the guy. Does that clear the air?

+ Lineup Changes against the Lions. While listed as doubtful, the Bengals will be without Domata ">Peko, Bernard Scott and Jonathan Luigs against the Lions, writes Joe Reedy. Pat Sims will make his fourth start this season for Peko, while Larry Johnson is expected to take on the backup role with Scott being out. Brian Leonard is still expected to do what he does on third downs. Sims previous three starts came against the Browns, Ravens and Texans during a stretch in which Tank Johnson had to sit because of a foot injury.

+ Bengals aren't the only good team dealing with sellout issues. We've always assumed that the Bengals struggle to sell tickets this season has a lot to do with the economy. I still suspect that that is mostly true. However, "14 of the league’s 176 games have been blacked out" this year. Most of the teams that have been hit by blackouts, like the Lions, Rams, Raiders are having horrible seasons. Why would anyone want to spend the amount of money to watch an NFL team if you expect them to lose every week? That makes sense, right?

It's not just bad teams being hit by the threat of blackouts every week. The Jacksonville Jaguars are 6-5 and fighting for a wildcard spot in the AFC. They've been blacked out six times and owner Wayne Weaver "doesn't anticipate selling out any home games in 2009." The San Diego Chargers are 8-3, fighting the Bengals for the second seed in the conference, and have run the risk of not selling out for the first time since November 7, 2004. Last week, the Chargers were granted two extensions to sellout a home game against the Chiefs.

Joe Reedy writes that the league has granted 17 extensions this year. Four of them have been granted to the Arizona Cardinals, who are 7-4 and, you know, last year's Super Bowl participants.

More, more, more

Pat Sims and Frostee Rucker are going to give away tickets to Sunday's game, writes John Thornton. "Each player wants to get two families of four, with two children, to the game.  If you are a single parent with three kids, that will work as well.  And please reserve the tickets for people who have never been to a Bengals game."

Did you know: The Detroit Lions are the last team in the NFL to play a regular season game at Paul Brown Stadium?

CNati's Scott Priestle writes that defensive end Michael Johnson will face quarterback Matthew Stafford for the fourth straight year. Last year, Johnson was at Georgia Tech and Stafford in Georgia. Johnson "had only one sack and batted down one pass in three games against Stafford and Georgia."

Marvin Lewis will be on the Bengals sidelines. Jim Schwartz will be on the Lions sidelines. Both coaches coached for the Baltimore Ravens at the same time while Brian Billick, the head coach at the time, will serve as the game analyst for Fox.