Palmer's Stock Rising in Cincy

Carson Palmer, whose Cincinnati Bengals face the Minnesota Vikings this Sunday, is on the fast track to becoming one of the NFL's better quarterbacks, and the statistics prove it. He is poised, determined and still striving to improve.

Carson Palmer has a hot hand.

He has completed 77 percent of his passes over the past four games, in which the Bengals are 3-1.

"There's always room for improvement. Percentages aren't always the best measuring stick for how you're playing," Palmer said. "I made a number of mistakes in the game. Whether I complete 100 percent, once you get complacent and think there's no room for improvement, that's when your game starts going down. You can play a phenomenal game and complete 60 percent of your passes. The measuring stick is how you feel after watching the game film."

Improving on his past four games would be difficult, expect in reducing the number of turnovers.

Palmer is on the fast track toward becoming one of the league's elite quarterbacks. The average passer rating in the league in 2004 was 82.8. Palmer's development is rapid. The victory Sunday evened his record at 7, 6-3 in his last nine starts.

On Sunday at Cleveland, in the Bengals' 27-13 victory, Palmer did his best Peyton Manning impersonation. The Bengals' third-year quarterback changed plays at the line and did so decisively. He had time to move up and down the line to make sure his teammates knew the audible. He also was 26-for-34 passing for 280 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.

Palmer is poised. He is a student of the game. He desires to be great. And, as backup quarterback and Palmer mentor Jon Kitna said, "In this league, there's no substitute for getting experience."

In those four games, Palmer has completed 77 percent of his passes and thrown almost twice as many touchdowns as interceptions, 11-6.

Palmer is the type of quarterback who can make the difference between winning and losing in a game against a team like Minnesota, which is a playoff contender. The Vikings play at Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday in the Bengals' home opener.

Kitna has heard Palmer challenge receivers to make sure they're in the right spot on pass routes. He didn't do that last season, his first as a starter.

Palmer is not satisfied with his current hot streak. Neither is Bratkowski. When asked how Palmer could improve on his 75-plus percent completion rate in the last four games, Bengals offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski said, "Complete 80-85. Don't set limits for yourself. The ones we really want to eliminate are the ones he completes to the other team. Then show the consistency to stay at a high level throughout the course of a year without the dips."

The Pro Bowl could be in Palmer's immediate future.

"We have to win football games," Lewis said when asked how Palmer can get to the league all-star game. "I don't think Carson has to do anything different. The rest of us have to keep playing and coaching better. He's so, so talented. As I keep saying from the day he walked in here, the guy, no matter what he touches, he can turn it to gold."

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