Updated: 9:40 p.m.
In his seven starts against Rex Ryan as a defensive coordinator, Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer fared better than most with five victories, a 91.5 passer rating, and a 61.8 completion percentage on an average of 7.5 yards per throw despite the ability of the Ravens defense to tee off and unleash hit after hit on the quarterback.
Those are numbers the Bengals will gladly take against Ryan's first team as a head coach Sunday in the Meadowlands when Palmer faces the Jets defense ranked No. 1 in the NFL. Consider the Jets are holding opposing quarterbacks to a 61 rating and 52.9 completion percentage and a measly 5.5 yards per attempt.
The challenge for the Bengals is that this isn't Ryan's Baltimore defense of 2005-2008 and this isn't Palmer's offense of that stretch. Ryan now has what he considers the NFL's best cornerback in Darrelle Revis and Palmer doesn't have wide receivers Chris Henry and T.J. Houshmandzadeh.
(Note that this season Palmer has that same 61.8 completion percentage, but his yards per attempt is 6.8.)
"He has a lot of faith in the corners he has now," said Bengals offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski of Ryan. "He can commit more guys to pressure and more guys in the middle of the field."
That's a luxury Ryan didn't have with the Ravens because his corners were aging and banged up. But if the Bengals are wary of Ryan's already mega unpredictability now magnified because of a shutdown corner, Ryan is concerned about the Bengals running game making Palmer more dangerous.
"They run the ball; they do a lot of what we did in Baltimore," said Ryan in Wednesday's conference call with the Cincinnati media. "They go with an extra lineman, an unbalanced line, tackles over and all that kind of stuff and they've been running the ball very efficiently and playing very good offense.
"Carson Palmer is the same guy. He's had as much talent as anybody in the league throwing the football. He's got a huge arm. The weather conditions are never a factor. He spins the ball so well. He's got big hands and all that."
Ryan has also put Palmer through some misery. Palmer's 94 yards passing and 35.3 passer rating in the '08 opener in Baltimore were among the worst of his career and in a 2006 loss he completed just 12 of 26 passes.
Even when Palmer did well against Ryan, there was always a price. The Bengals did a pretty good job protecting him in those seven games in allowing 12 sacks, but Bart Scott, the former Ravens linebacker who followed Ryan to New York, told the media on Monday that Palmer is the quarterback he has hit the most in the NFL.
"A lot of the same things," Palmer said Wednesday of Ryan's Jets compared to Ryan's Ravens. "They do a really good job of confusing you, and that makes it even more difficult to play them in their own stadium, where it's loud and the communication becomes an issue. I think they're better at corner than he had in the past. They don't have Terrell Suggs, Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, but they have a different combination of very good players, very elite players at different positions. Bart Scott is one of the best linebackers in the league, and (Calvin) Pace can rush. They have a lot of good players. I think it's an upgrade from what Rex has had in the past."
Certainly wide receiver Chad Ochocinco thinks so. He's been tweeting about his matchup with Revis all week and even named one of his Ustreams Wednesday night "Revis Island."
The Ocho says that Revis, Denver's Champ Bailey and Oakland's Nnamidi Asomugha are the only corners he's seen get no help in one-on-one coverage.
"Revis makes Rex's job extremely easy," The Ocho said. " 'Revis, you go over there and lock that side down and let me run the defense.' The way he plays puts his defensive coach in a very comfortable position."
The Ocho says Revis "is good at everything," and talked about how he can bump-and-run as well as make an effective "stab" at the line of scrimmage while "staying high" in his technique.
"I hope so," said The Ocho when asked if he thinks Revis will press him at the line. "They don't (usually). You can press, but you have your little buddy right behind you to help you out. But watching film, I've seen him line up on Andre Johnson, Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, line up in their face with no help. My style of play is clearly different than those individuals, but they're all good. So, I want to see what you can do."
That sets up the interesting subplot. Will T-Rex opt to ask Revis to shut down The Ocho by himself? Ryan, a big fan of Ochocinco, never dared to do it in Baltimore. But he might now.
"We're the only team in the league that would even think about putting one guy on Randy Moss and the same thing with Chad," Ryan said. "I don't know if people really appreciate Chad. You have to cover him with two guys. That's generally what every team in the league tries to do and he still makes plays. No team in the league can line up and cover him man for man. We couldn't in Baltimore. We'll see here because we've got the best corner in football. So if any team has a shot to line up and play him in man coverage it would be us."
Teaming with Revis is Ryan's former safety in Baltimore, Jim Leonhard, a guy that can give Revis plenty of knowledge.
"Revis is just a really good player, flat-out," Palmer said. "Reads formations and plays, he can run, he can play the ball, he can press, he's good in and out of his breaks. Leonhard has played against us a ton, so he understands what he's seeing. He'll try to jump things and recognize formations. Just a smart, heady player that makes a lot of plays. He's not Ed Reed -- there's only one of those in the league -- but he's a very good player."
No doubt The Ocho-Revis matchup is going to dictate what happens on the rest of the field. But the big stat in the Palmer-Ryan chess match could be the four interceptions Palmer has thrown in those 204 attempts, a low number against the big-time Ravens pressure and the ravenous Reed's hands.
"(Ryan) puts a lot of stress on the quarterback," Bratkowski said. "They try to make him make bad decisions. It makes managing the game so important on first and second down. The fewer yards you have on third down, the better you'll be. When we've had success against (Ryan), we've avoided the turnovers. The sack-fumbles and the interceptions."
Again, the Bengals would take those numbers Sunday. The Jets are forcing opposing quarterbacks to throw interceptions at a 3.3 percentage. In the seven games against Ryan, Palmer was 1.9.
And the major reason the Bengals and Jets have virtually the same stats running the ball and stopping the run and yet Cincinnati won its division while the Jets need to beat them to make the playoffs is that interception percentage. Ryan's rookie quarterback is next-to-last in the NFL, while Palmer has the Bengals in the top 12.
"I've had some good days against him, I've had a lot of bad days against him," Ryan said of Palmer. "This is a different year. I feel good about the players we have. I feel good about our defense. If he's going to beat us he's going to have to earn it, that's for sure."