Hobson's Choice: Palmer for Comeback Pro Bowl

Q: I don't know if many people have realized just how good of a season Carson Palmer is putting together. Five out of his last six games he has had a QB rating of 94 or better with two games over 100. He leads the league in yards per pass attempt. Believe it or not he is projected to throw for over 4,000 yards this season and have a 97.7 passer rating.

My question is will his amazing performance coming off surgery and playing with fill-in starters on the offensive line be overshadowed by Philip Rivers' performance in San Diego and keep Carson out of the Pro Bowl behind Manning, Brady and Rivers?
** --Brandon, Atlanta, GA

BRANDON:** Can you give a guy Comeback Player of the Year even though he never went anywhere?

Agreed. In fact we mentioned it in Monday's notes that he's on pace to become the Bengals' first 4,000-yard passer and made the argument that he should beat out Rivers for the third spot behind the locks Manning and Brady.

Right now he leads Rivers in every category but completion percentage and interceptions, and it's not by much, either.

Plus, I think the Bengals have a more rabid fan base than the Chargers and Palmer will get the fan vote as well as the votes from players and coaches, a group that always seems to side with past Pro Bowlers.

I asked Marvin in his Monday news conference if, back in March, he would haven take Palmer's current numbers and if he would have been surprised at how good they would have been.

Lewis said, 'No,' and that he thought they would have been better. I'm not sure about that. To me it's truly incredible how well he's come back and is a true testimony to how hard he worked and how much he wants to win, and how he's worth every cent of that $118 million.

And, yes, it probably has been taken for granted because we just expect the guy to amaze us every snap.

Can you be Comeback Player of the Year and earn two Pro Bowl berths all in just a year of each other? If you're Carson Palmer, you should be able to.

Q: We put together a win against the Saints, but aren't you worried about our pass defense? We are now ranked dead last in the league, and our cornerbacks are obviously playing off to compensate for lost speed due to age. Is it time for a changing of the guard in the secondary? Giving up over 500 yards through the air is unacceptable.
**--Jonathan R., Cincinnati, OH

JONATHAN:** You make a valid point on the future and there won't be any insurrections if they take a first-round cornerback again. But as for the 510 yards, well, it's not a video game.

What is unacceptable is allowing Philip Rivers to throw for 337 yards without an interception like they did against the Chargers and blowing a 28-7 lead when they knew virtually every play had to be a pass. That's unacceptable,

But getting three interceptions and winning on a 510-yard day when you're trying to keep a big-play offense in front of you is, pardon the pun, passable. The Saints are wishing they'd given Chad Johnson a little more cushion.

I'm always amazed at how people just blow off turnovers by saying the defense was lucky to get them or they would have given up 50 points. Angels hand out wings, not turnovers. You have to have some talent to force them. I mean, Drew Brees went 93 straight passes against three other teams without getting picked and the Bengals got him three times so you have to give some credit there.

Plus, get back to me after they play Charlie Frye, Steve McNair and Aaron Brooks in the next three weeks after playing two guys who have already passed it nearly a combined 700 times and racked up yards against everybody. If the Bengals aren't back to at least No. 27 against the pass after the next three games, they will have lost one of them.

Which would be unacceptable.

That said, the secondary is clearly reeling. Their two Pro Bowl corners have come nowhere near how they played the previous two seasons.

I do think Deltha O'Neal's knee isn't quite right after an offseason scope. But how does a guy who went all last year without giving up a play longer than 25 yards play like he has? But I also think he's too young and talented to give up on.

They know a day with James is coming at some point. Does he suddenly look 33? He's another guy you hate to discard because he has meant so much to their turnaround. He arrived in 2003 and instantly made one of their chronic worst positions NFL legit. I'd like to think if they think he can't help them every down any more that they keep him as the nickel.

But, yeah, I think you only have to look at the numbers to see they probably still have to draft a corner, or sign one in free agency and the former seems to better fit the club's M.O.

Plus, free safety Madieu Williams needs to make more of an impact, and I think he will the more snaps he gets, and he had a nice game last week. Some people are raving that second-year safety Sean Jones of the Browns is moving past him in the race to challenge the division's Pro Bowl safeties in Baltimore's Ed Reed and Pittsburgh's Troy Polamalu.

Peyton Manning against the Bengals on Monday Night next month?

It would be a good day for everyone to be healthy.

Q: When everyone on the offensive line gets healthy, do you think the Bengals should go back to their original starters or should they stick with the guys that have been playing together?

If they go back to the starters, do you think that it will take a game or two for them to get acclimated to each other again and if so can the Bengals afford an acclimation game?
**--Justin R., Tulsa, OK

JUSTIN:** Good question. Just asked it myself to a former NFL GM on Tuesday and he said that without a doubt you have to get those guys back in there "because they're your best players."

It's not so much working in rhythm as it is being able to communicate along the line. And Braham and Jones and Williams have worked so long with Anderson and Steinbach that it wouldn't take but a practice or two to get everyone back in sync.

And, no, they can't afford any acclimation games. All the more reason when the best guys are healthy, let's go.

(Scuttlebutt is they could all be back together again starting Dec. 10 against Oakland for the last four games.)

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