The popular consensus this week is that Bengals QB Carson Palmer has dropped a peg on the quarterback hierarchy.
"He was beyond awful in Sunday's Jets game."
"He is throwing the ball away consistently on blitzes."
"He doesn't look like the same quarterback that he was in '05."
Well nobody can argue with the first two statements. He hasn't been very good at handling pressure and he has had some questionable interceptions. It's no secret, Palmer's numbers haven't been up to par in the second half. For the year he completed 282 of 466 passes (60.5 percent) for 3,094 yards with 21 touchdowns against 13 interceptions.
But the third statement is false, Palmer is just fine. After the Week 10 win over the Steelers, the Bengals sat at 7-2 with a 5-0 AFC North record. Coach Marvin Lewis decided that it was time to play keep away. The entire game plan revolved around the running game, bend-but-don't-break defense, and controlling the time of possession battle. The passing game was very vanilla.
In the first half of the season the passing game was much more a part of the offensive philosophy. Palmer successfully led game-winning fourth quarter drives against every single divisional opponent (Browns, Steelers, and Ravens) and that is not counting the game-winning drive with seconds remaining against Denver that was wiped out by the immaculate deflection. Anytime the Bengals are in a game at the end, Palmer has delivered.
He led a game-tying drive against the Chargers that went for naught due to a poor prevent defense. He lead the division-clinching drive against the Chiefs two weeks ago. Put the ball in his hands at the end of a game and good things happen.
Each of those drives showed me that Palmer still has it. He comes up big when his team needs him most and doesn't buckle under the pressure. Is it his fault that the offensive line has way to many false start penalties? Is it his fault that the pass protection has slowly but surely deteriorated?
Or how about his lack of receivers?
Jets CB Darrelle Revis was selected as a starting corner for the AFC in the Pro Bowl, and deservedly so. No receiver has more than 35 yards against him this season.
WR Chad Ochocinco is getting put on Reevis Island and somebody needs to give Palmer a reliable target...Laveranues Coles is a solid veteran that needs to show up, especially against his old team. He hasn't been on the same page with Palmer this year but his numbers aren't awful (514 yards, five TDs.)
WR Andre Caldwell has really lost his confidence since that game-changing fumble against Oakland. He has made some huge plays this season but none of late. He needs to create that separation on those slants that he seemingly loves to run. WR Chris Henry's deep threat is missed greatly.
TE J.P. Foschi is not much of a receiving threat at tight end. He doesn't have great hands and can't make a guy miss in the open field.
Palmer isn't working with a bunch of All Pro's. Drops, missed blocks and penalties can't be blamed on the QB. He is still accurate and more than capable of leading a team deep into the playoffs. Now the playbook will be opened up to trick plays and others that have been waiting on deck until the playoffs.
He has gotten this team into the playoffs and he knows the rarity of that. This is the third postseason appearance in the last 19 years for the Bengals. How bad do you think a seven-year veteran wants to win his first playoff game?
Saturday will come down to quarterback play and give me Carson Palmer over his former ball boy Mark Sanchez.