As I celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday with my family, I begin to think about what I am thankful for regarding the 2009 Cincinnati Bengals.
Despite a couple of bumps in the road, the season has been an enjoyable one for Bengals fans. The team is 7-3 and all alone atop the AFC North.
What are Bengals fans thankful for?
Carson Palmer's Health
Carson Palmer has remained relatively healthy. A lot of credit needs to go to the offensive line. Protecting Palmer was a big concern of mine heading into this season. The line has played well so far.
Palmer has shown no signs of the elbow injury that caused him to miss all but four games last year. He has been playing with an injured left thumb, but it has not seemed to bother him. Palmer has also been displaying an ability to move in the pocket and even run the football that we have not seen before.
Cedric Benson is averaging 95 yards per game on the ground. His consistent production has helped transform the Bengals offense into a balanced attack that controls the clock and plays smart, effective football. Bernard Scott and Brian Leonard have also been key contributors in the running game.
The offensive line deserves credit when it comes to the team's ability to run the football.
I cannot say enough about the attitude and intensity that defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer has brought to Cincinnati. The Bengals are allowing 84 rushing yards per game, good enough for second in the NFL. Cornerbacks Leon Hall and Johnathan Joseph have repeatedly shut down the opposition's top receiving threat, forcing quarterbacks to find other options.
After the season-opening loss to Denver, this team could have imploded with a "here we go again" mentality. It would not have been surprising given the recent history of this franchise. However, they put the loss behind them and won the next week in Green Bay.
They are 5-0 in their division with the Cleveland Browns coming to Cincinnati on Sunday. A perfect record against AFC North opponents would be great, but this team has bigger goals.