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Inside the NFL | THIS WEEK'S MATCHUPS

Palmer's the Tiger in Bengals' Tank

October 07, 2005|Jerry Crowe | Times Staff Writer

The Carson Show returns to prime time Sunday, a reminder to Johnny-come-lately USC fans that the Trojans had a pretty good quarterback before Matt Leinart started leading them to national championships.

Carson Palmer, Heisman Trophy winner in 2002 and top pick in the NFL draft in 2003, has helped the Cincinnati Bengals to a 4-0 record.

Their best start in 17 years has left the Bengals among only four teams still unbeaten through the first month of the season as they prepare for Sunday's 5:30 p.m. ESPN telecast against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The Bengals, playing on the road, are three-point underdogs as they try to improve to 5-0 for the first time since 1988, when they won their first six games with Boomer Esiason en route to the Super Bowl.

Palmer, who has completed a league-high 71.8% of his passes, leads the NFL's third-ranked offense against the league's third-ranked defense.

Added bonus for USC fans: The Jaguars, 2-2 after Sunday's 20-7 loss to the Denver Broncos, are coached by former Trojan linebacker Jack Del Rio.

Elsewhere:

Baltimore (1-2) plus 1 1/2 at Detroit (1-2), Sunday, 10 a.m. -- Anthony Wright, subbing for injured Raven starter Kyle Boller, has completed 65% of his passes in his last two games, among them a 13-3 victory Sunday over the New York Jets in which he was 15 for 21 and the Ravens controlled the ball for 38 minutes.

Miami (2-1) plus 2 1/2 at Buffalo (1-3), Sunday, 10 a.m. -- The Bills rank 31st in the league in total offense and former Venice High quarterback J.P. Losman, benched in the fourth quarter of Sunday's loss to the New Orleans Saints, has completed fewer than 50% of his passes.

Seattle (2-2) plus 3 at St. Louis (2-2), Sunday, 10 a.m., Channel 11 -- The Seahawks have not won at St. Louis since moving to the NFC in 2002 and were 0-3 against the Rams last season, including a 27-20 first-round playoff defeat.

Tennessee (1-3) plus 3 at Houston (0-3), Sunday, 10 a.m. -- The Texans rank last in the NFL in offense and 26th in defense. The Titans, the league's youngest team, have been penalized 32 times for 252 yards. Enjoy.

Tampa Bay (4-0) at N.Y. Jets (1-3) plus 3, Sunday, 10 a.m. -- Vinny Testaverde, drafted first overall by the Buccaneers in 1987, is set to start for the Jets, becoming, at 41, the fourth-oldest quarterback to start a game in the Super Bowl era -- behind Steve DeBerg, Warren Moon and Doug Flutie.

New England (2-2) plus 3 at Atlanta (3-1), Sunday, 10 a.m., Channel 2 -- Michael Vick draws all the attention of fans and reporters, but the Falcon defense tops the NFL with 17 sacks and has given up only one second-half touchdown.

New Orleans (2-2) plus 3 at Green Bay (0-4), Sunday, 10 a.m. -- The Packers, who have lost their last three games by a total of six points, haven't opened a season 0-5 since 1988, when Brett Favre was a sophomore at Southern Mississippi.

Chicago (1-2) plus 3 at Cleveland (1-2), Sunday, 10 a.m. -- The Browns begin five consecutive games against teams with losing records. The Bears fell below .500 when five of rookie quarterback Kyle Orton's passes were intercepted in a 24-7 loss to the Bengals on Sept. 25. Orton's 41.9 passer rating is the NFL's worst.

Indianapolis (4-0) at San Francisco (1-3) plus 14 1/2 , Sunday, 1 p.m. -- Outscored in the fourth quarter this season, 48-0, the 49ers have turned over their offense to rookie quarterback Alex Smith, who makes his debut as an NFL starter against a defense that has given up a league-low 6.5 points a game.

Philadelphia (3-1) at Dallas (2-2) plus 3, Sunday, 1:15 p.m., Channel 11 -- The Eagles, who rallied from an 18-point deficit in last Sunday's victory over the Kansas City Chiefs, usually don't require such desperate efforts against the Cowboys. They've won nine of the last 10 meetings by an average margin of more than three touchdowns.

Carolina (2-2) at Arizona (1-3) plus 2 1/2 , Sunday, 1:15 p.m. -- After Josh McCown completed 32 of 46 passes for 385 yards, all personal bests, in the Cardinals' victory over the 49ers last Sunday, he said that Kurt Warner asked him, "You're not going to let me back on the field, are you?" Not if he can help it.

Washington (3-0) plus 7 at Denver (3-1), Sunday, 1:15 p.m. -- Clinton Portis, the Broncos' leading rusher in his two seasons in Denver, returns to the Mile High City to face his former team for the first time since he was traded before last season.

Pittsburgh (2-1) plus 3 at San Diego (2-2), Monday, 6 p.m. -- For what it's worth: In their most recent game, the Steelers lost at home to the Patriots two weeks ago. The Chargers upset the Super Bowl champions Sunday at Foxborough, Mass.

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