Carson Palmer. Just the name illuminates the head storyline for the upcoming game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Oakland Raiders.
The former Bengals quarterback, who played for Cincy for eight seasons, visits Paul Brown Stadium for the first time since he wore a Cincinnati uniform on the field, and will look to lead his Raiders to a much-needed win against his former team.
To do that, he’ll have to beat the "Red Rifle," the young Bengals quarterback that has his team on the brink of a second three-game winning streak this season. In the last two games, Andy Dalton has thrown six touchdown passes in comparison with no interceptions.
Despite some problems early against the Chiefs on third down, his accuracy has greatly improved during this time. It might be because he’s holding the ball a little longer in the pocket. Perhaps it’s coach Marvin Lewis’ push for the sophomore to be more of a leader. Whatever it is; it’s working. And Bengals fans can’t be too upset about that.
This game features two teams trending largely in opposite directions, as the Raiders have dropped their last three games. That isn’t all Palmer's fault though, as he has actually passed for 3,035 yards on the season thus far, third in the league.
However, passing so much has led to 11 interceptions. With very little running game, and a non-existent defense, the Raiders haven’t had a lead very often of late. In fact, they’ve managed an average of just 23 points during the current losing streak.
Everybody will be talking about the return of the Cincinnati quarterback. The battle between the rising star and the veteran. There will undoubtedly be boos, and there will be pointed fingers to compliment.
However, the fact of the matter is, the Bengals win games, and they’re 6-5. Which is where they want to be.
Who wins Sunday's match-up?
This is a game where the Bengals will look to minimize turnovers, as they have done very well in the last two games.
The Oakland offense has been pretty stagnant the last few losses, but they have the potential to put up solid points when they get on offense. Because the Bengals have that same ability, the key to a victory will be to keep their defense off the field.
The Oakland offense centers around the passing game, especially with the recent injury to Darren McFadden. It presents a problem the Bengals have had, at times, this season.
With the offense largely relying on the pass attack, the defense can adjust with more pass coverages. Like the Bengals faced in their four-game losing streak, the Raiders have been forced to cope with defenses playing off of their few strengths. In this case, the one-dimensional offense.
I expect the Bengals to increase their streak to three wins against their old quarterback. The momentum on offense will continue, and the defense will be enough to hold their lead in the fourth quarter.
Bengals 28, Raiders 20