Palmer eyes Steelers, century

Posted: 6:45 p.m.

Some more Ken Anderson-Boomer Esiason-Carson Palmer karma?

Palmer is on the verge of becoming the fifth fastest quarterback to reach 100 career touchdown passes when the Bengals play in the Sunday night game in Pittsburgh.

Palmer gets his 57th start at Heinz Field and his next scoring pass is the 100th, just missing Peyton Manning's 56 that is good for fourth place on the list.

Two Hall of Famers are ahead of Palmer - Dan Marino (the fastest at 44) and Johnny Unitas in 53 games. Kurt Warner is the second fastest at 50.

Anderson, the Steelers quarterbacks coach, holds the Bengals career record with 197. But he didn't do it until his 93rd game, a 28-12 loss in San Francisco Oct. 1, 1978.

Esiason, second at 187, did it against the Steelers. It was in his 71st game on Sept. 17, 1989 during a 41-10 win at Riverfront.

Anderson was 29 when he did it, Esiason 28. Palmer turns 28 next month on Dec. 27.

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Palmer

Palmer's 21 touchdowns rank sixth in the NFL, one behind Green Bay's Brett Favre and Cleveland's Derek Anderson. He's on pace for 31 touchdowns, one off his club record set in 2005 when he became the first Bengals quarterback to throw 30 in a season.

More karma?

Sunday's game marks the Bengals' first appearance on NBC in the regular season since the 1997 finale at Cinergy Field that turned out to be Esiason's last NFL game. His last pass, a 77-yard touchdown to Darnay Scott, scuttled Ravens defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis in the Bengals' 16-14 win over Baltimore.

CBS has been the AFC Network since 1998.

DECEMBER BLUES: With five games left, Lewis hopes to have the second winning December of his five seasons. He's 8-11 overall in December and January games, breaking it down with 1-3 in '03, 3-2 in '04, 3-3 in '05 and 1-3 in '06.

"That has to be a big emphasis," said Lewis of the fast finish. "If we don't, we're finished. We have no margin of error. We have to go make hay ourselves. Each and every week is big for us."

Take the last two seasons where the Bengals have lost five out of the last six. But that's including the 37-3 loss in the '05 finale in Kansas City when Palmer threw just eight passes and most of the starters sat out the majority of the game in preparation for the playoffs.

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Johnson

Wide receiver Chad Johnson has a rep for finishing slowly. He finished an uncharacteristic November not-to-remember until last Sunday with 1,041 yards, fourth in the NFL and 54 behind leader Randy Moss.

Here are his monthly averages per game for receiving yards, plus touchdowns:

September: 70, 13 TDs; October: 78, 6 TDs; November: 100, 19 TDs; December-January: 62, 9 TDs.

Lewis would love to see the media give Johnson some motivation for a stretch run.

"It's important for him to keep his focus. You should probably write a bunch of articles about that this week," Lewis said. "It would be good to see him finish the season strong, and see how he can outdo what he did in the first part."

INJURY UPDATE: Lewis wouldn't offer any clues on the status of right tackle Willie Anderson (knee) and running back Chris Perry. Perry didn't practice Friday, which could mean the Bengals are leaning to not activating him off the physically unable to perform (PUP) list.

Lewis said linebacker Landon Johnson (12 stitches in his forearm) and strong safety Dexter Jackson (wrist) should be fine for Sunday. In continuing to lead the NFL with 83 catches, wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh (back) got through Sunday's game fine with seven catches. But New England's Wes Welker put 13 on the Eagles Sunday night and trails Houshmandzadeh by two.

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