It will be a homecoming for quarterback Carson Palmer when the Oakland Raiders play the Cincinnati Bengals. Palmer spent seven seasons with the Bengals after being selected as the number one overall pick in the 2003 NFL Draft. This Sunday, Oakland (3-7) and Cincinnati (5-5) are both looking to spoil the other team's emotional day.
Former Raiders' head coach Hue Jackson is now an assistant in Cincinnati. When Oakland's general manager Reggie McKenzie was hired, his first decision was to fire Jackson after only one 8-8 season. Both Jackson and Palmer are very familiar with the personnel on each side, which could make for an interesting game.
The Raiders will be without starting running back Darren McFadden for the third straight game with a high ankle sprain. Back-up Mike Goodson suffered the same injury and is out as well. That means fullback Marcel Reece will make his third start this season in relief of McFadden. He has been a rare bright spot since taking over as the starter. In the two games he has been the primary back, Reece has accumulated 151 rushing yards and 146 receiving yards. The Bengals give up an average of 117.8 rushing yards per game, which ranks 17th in the NFL.
Although Reece has done a great job as an injury replacement, the Oakland offense still runs through the arm of Palmer. He has put up huge numbers this season for a variety of factors. The veteran quarterback has thrown for 3,035 yards with 17 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Because the Raiders have trailed so much this season, Palmer is forced to throw often. The offense can put out big numbers, but must become more efficient to beat the Bengals. Cincinnati is ranked 14th in the NFL in passing defense allowing 228.3 yards per game. Palmer will rely on his favorite targets, wide receivers Denarius Moore and Darrius Heyward-Bey as well as tight end Brandon Myers to move the ball against the stingy Cincinnati defense.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Raiders have been embarrassed lately. They have given up 135 points in the last three games. They will face a balanced and explosive Bengals' offense Sunday. Cincinnati boosts maybe the best receiver in the NFL. A.J. Green has 64 receptions for 911 yards and 10 touchdowns this season. He will give the Raiders secondary fits. Quarterback Andy Dalton leads a Bengals' passing offense ranked 11th in the NFL averaging 249.6 yards per game. Dalton has made huge strides in his second year, throwing 20 touchdowns already.
Strong Safety Tyvon Branch is listed as probable after missing last weeks' game. Branch and fellow safety Matt Giordano along with cornerbacks Michael Huff and Ron Bartell must play better against the Bengals pass offense. The Raiders will be without Richard Seymour for the third straight game. They have been unable to put much pressure on quarterbacks all season which has left the secondary out to dry. If the same situations play out in Cincinnati, it will be another long day at the office for the Raiders' defense.
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