All eyes are on Carson Palmer's inflamed right throwing elbow, and his presence in the game Sunday at the Jets would help the Bengals take advantage of a New York weakness -- its pass defense.
The Jets are 31st in the NFL in pass defense at 265 yards a game, in spite of an improved pass rush.
The Bengals are 0-5 heading back to the Meadowlands for the second time in a span of three weeks. They lost there to the Giants, 26-23, in overtime Sept. 21.
Palmer said Wednesday that he knew the limitations of his throwing arm Sunday at Dallas, realizing he didn't have the confidence to throw some of the deeper, harder passes he normally would because of the injury to his throwing elbow.
He was asked Wednesday at his weekly news conference whether the inflamed elbow affected any of his passes or decisions in the pocket.
"No. There were a couple times where I didn't have the confidence I normally have, just because my arm's not the same as previous to the injury," Palmer said. "But as far as throwing balls, I felt like I missed a couple I shouldn't have missed, but the only thing I noticed was just a little less confidence in throwing some. I saw holes in certain spots that I kind of held back on and moved on to the next guy."
Palmer said his elbow "came through as expected" and that he hopes to play Sunday at the Jets.
Palmer is approaching this week just like the last -- by throwing as little as possible, resting as much as he can, and awaiting a doctor's decision closer to the game.
Coach Marvin Lewis on Monday said Palmer made good decisions not to force the ball into coverage and that the Cowboys secondary did a good job of giving cornerbacks help from safeties.
"Balls I normally zip right by somebody, I felt maybe there's a chance they get their hands on it or make a play on it," Palmer said. "Just pulled some of those down and moved on."
Palmer rebounded from a poor first half at Dallas, where he was 7-for-17 passing for 62 yards and one interception. In the second half, he was 16-for-22 passing for 155 yards and two touchdowns.
Was offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski's play-calling affected by Palmer's elbow ailment?
"I know Brat was definitely conscious of it," Palmer said. "He knew the situation, what was going on. We talked. There weren't a ton of opportunities where we wanted to be sitting in the pocket and really throw the ball downfield long, to let those guys get off press and get downfield, just because you've got (linebackers) DeMarcus Ware on one side and (Greg) Ellis on the other."
Bratkowski said he was not limited in his play-calling. "No, we still called some deep (balls)," Bratkowski said. "We didn't get the looks that we wanted or the coverage didn't really show itself that you would like, but we still went ahead and did it -- because we talked before the game. ... I went over all the things down the field with him and he said he was fine."
SERIES HISTORY: 20th meeting -- The New York Jets lead the Bengals, 12-7, but the Bengals won the most recent meeting, 38-31, in 2007 at Paul Brown Stadium. The Jets lead 9-2 at home, including 6-0 at the Meadowlands. The Jets led 3-2 in five games played at Shea Stadium. They handed the Bengals their most shocking playoff loss in history. In 1982, the Bengals posted a 7-2 record in the strike-shortened season, and fans were envisioning a second straight Super Bowl berth for the defending AFC champs. But the Jets dominated in a 44-17 win at Riverfront Stadium.
--Jets QB Brett Favre, the league's leading passer through Week 5 with a 110.8 rating and the only three-time NFL MVP, has a 3-1 record in past starts against the Bengals, all while he was with Green Bay. But the Bengals got the best of Favre in the last meeting. On Oct. 30, 2005, as they drove to the AFC North title, the Bengals intercepted five Favre passes in a 21-14 win at Paul Brown Stadium. That's the most interceptions ever suffered by Favre in a regular-season game. (He once threw six interceptions in the postseason). But none of the Bengals' current defensive players were in on the interception feast. CB Deltha O'Neal and LB Odell Thurman each had two picks, and cornerback Tory James had one.
--Carson Palmer remembers the last time the Bengals faced Brett Favre, who will be starting at quarterback Sunday for the Jets.
"Uh, all I remember is winning. It's been a while since we've had one of those," Palmer said. "You watch that last drive and I think we were up by five or six points (seven), and it's one those things where it's 'Uh oh, it's Favre.' You never know. You never know when the game's over. Fortunately we had some fan interference that saved that win for us."
Gregory Gall, a 31-year-old at the time from Cincinnati, was arrested for criminal trespassing when he ran onto the field and stole the ball out of Favre's hands as Favre dropped back to pass. The aborted play came at the end of the Bengals' 21-14 victory over the Packers Oct. 30, 2005.
"He was the key," Palmer said of the fan. "I think he should have got the game ball."
--Coach Marvin Lewis and QB Carson Palmer both made Bengals on-field debuts against the Jets at the Meadowlands. Lewis coached his first Bengals game in a preseason game against the Jets on Aug. 10, 2003. The Jets won 28-13. Palmer made his regular-season debut on Sept. 12, 2004, also against the Jets. He didn't engineer a victory in his debut; the Jets won 31-24. But Palmer posted a 105.2 passer rating, completing 18 of 27 passes for 248 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. His first career touchdown pass was six yards to TB Kenny Watson in the third quarter.
--Bengals first-year coordinator Mike Zimmer, charged with rebuilding and molding a young unit, has his defense ranked 19th in the 32-team league in points and yards allowed per game -- an improvement over 2007.
"You know, we have played some terrific offenses," Zimmer said when asked what he is pleased about so far. "The Tennessee game, the wind helped up. Against the Giants, I thought we played well for most of the game. Dallas, periods of the game, we played very good.
"We're still, in fourth and (4 at Dallas), and the crack toss, and we have a chance to make the play, and we don't understand the concepts yet totally. Those are the things that are eating at me right now.
"I have to be careful how much we put in. Every week, I see how much we have in after game-planning, and I say 'Throw this out, throw this out' because the guys are so young. ... Quite honestly, I am happy to be here. I am happy to be coaching these guys, even though we're 0-5. I'd like to be 5-0. The effort they're giving. Like I told them the other day, when you're an 0-5 football team, you're typically a bad football team. We're not a bad football team. I've seen some bad teams. We're not a bad team. We're just not getting the wins."
BY THE NUMBERS: 14 -- Receptions in five games for Bengals wide receiver Chad Ocho Cinco (Johnson), who has averaged 80 catches in his seven previous seasons.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "My ankle's fine, my shoulder's fine, but for those who don't know why I'm not getting the ball, I have my own little philosophy on what's going on. And I broke it down like this: Never, ever, ever, ever go against the monster, because the monster always wins. Get it? So y'all put that in your own perspective and you'll understand where I'm coming from and why things are going the way it's going right now. OK, what else you want to talk about?" -- Bengals WR Chad Ocho Cinco on Wednesday, in a thinly veiled reference to Bengals president Mike Brown. Ocho Cinco ruled out coach Marvin Lewis and quarterback Carson Palmer.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES
--TB Cedric Benson, who rushed 10 times for 30 yards at Dallas, just five days after signing with the Bengals as a free agent, will get an expanded role Sunday at the Jets. Benson said he has focused this week on learning the pass game so his presence on the field doesn't tip off the defense that a run play is coming.
--LB Dhani Jones (foot) did not practice Wednesday but is expected back for the Jets.
--HB Kenny Watson (hamstring) re-signed Tuesday and practiced fully Wednesday. He practiced fully after having been slowed by a hamstring injury.
--LB Corey Mays (ankle) did not practice and is out for the Jets. He is a key special teams player.
--CB Johnathan Joseph (ankle) returned to practice fully for the first time since spraining his ankle in Week 2 against Tennessee.
--QB Carson Palmer (right elbow) was limited.
--S Dexter Jackson (thumb) was limited in practice after missing four games because of the injury.
--LT Levi Jones (knee) did not practice.
--DE Frostee Rucker (shoulder) was limited.
--DT Pat Sims (thigh) was limited.
GAME PLAN: The Bengals want to run the ball better than they have all season, coach Marvin Lewis said Wednesday. The Bengals would like to limit the amount of time Brett Favre and his receivers have on the field. They have been poor against the run and expect the Jets to run hard at them with Thomas Jones.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Bengals QB Carson Palmer vs. Jets pass defense -- The Jets are susceptible in the pass game, witness their 31st ranking at 265 yards allowed a game. They are allowing 68.2 percent completions. CB Darrelle Revis is playing well and has three interceptions. But the rest of the secondary has been poor, and offenses are picking on rookie CB Dwight Lowery. New York is getting a solid pass rush with 13 sacks in four games. LB Bryan Thomas has four and DE Shaun Ellis three. This game could be the one the Bengals get the ball to Chad Ocho Cinco, who has just 14 receptions and one touchdown in five games.
Jets RB Thomas Jones vs. Bengals run defense -- New York is faring only a little better than the Bengals in the rush game. It is ranked 26th and is gaining 3.8 yards a carry, compared to 3.3 for the Bengals. Thomas Jones is the workhorse, running 67 times for 254 yards (3.8-yard average) with a long of 16 yards and one touchdown. Though the Bengals' run defense is better, they have allowed 229, 177 and 198 yards rushing in three of their five losses. The Bengals are 27th in rush defense at 167.6 yards a game.
--CB Johnathan Joseph practiced fully Wednesday, for the first time since sustaining an ankle sprain in Week 2 against Tennessee. He played Sunday at Dallas as a backup, and his return helps the pass defense against Brett Favre and the Jets.
--Of course, all eyes are on Carson Palmer's elbow. He was limited in practice Wednesday and the decision whether he plays Sunday will be made later in the week. Ryan Fitzpatrick would start.