Much of the focus the past week leading into the Raiders game in Cincinnati has focused on Carson Palmer’s return to Ohio.
The former Bengals quarterback is making his first return to Cincinnati since being traded to the Raiders in midseason of 2011 after seven seasons in orange and black.
But for the Raiders, the key aspect in Sunday’s game is likely how well they play defensively.
If Oakland (3-7) is going to avoid a four-game losing streak for the first time in four seasons, it’s going to have to contain the passing attack of second-year quarterback Andy Dalton and his cast of associates, including dynamic wide receiver A.J. Green and running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis.
This season, Dalton – who led Cincinnati to the playoffs as a rookie in 2011– has thrown 20 TD passes for the Bengals (5-5) and ranks 11th in the league in passer rating (92.7).
Green has 64 catches, including 10 for touchdowns. Green-Ellis, a former Patriots standout, ran for a season-high 101 yards last week.
For the Raiders, who rank last in the league in scoring defense (32.2 ppg), the Bengals could be a challenge.
Oddsmakers have made the Bengals 7.5-point favorites.
“It’s a big game,” Palmer told reporters this week. “But it’s obviously a much bigger game for our team. We have to win. We’re going to fight, we’re going to grind this week. We have a lot of room for improvement, a lot of areas we need to improve on.”
While the Raiders defense will be challenged, the team’s offense has shown it can move the ball in spurts but lacks consistency.
The team found a ground attack last week against New Orleans with converted fullback Marcel Reece rushing for more than 100 yards, and Palmer is third in the NFL with 3,035 yards passing. But mistakes have been costly. Palmer has thrown 11 interceptions.
Palmer knows that if Oakland is to get back into the win column, it’s going to have to play a much more fundamentally sound game on Sunday.
“I think consistency has been our biggest Achilles’ heel,” Palmer told the Raiders website this week. “The teams that win consistently in this league play consistently well four quarters of the game. That’s something we haven’t done.”