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Bengals not focusing on Palmer's return

The SportsXchange

For over a year, fans have been looking forward to Carson Palmer's return to Paul Brown Stadium as the Raiders face the Bengals. When it comes to the players though, they moved on from it all during the lockout.

The focus this week isn't on why Palmer decided he wanted out after eight seasons -- even though during Wednesday's conference call the reason slanted a lot toward ownership -- but on which side will have an advantage. Will it be a quarterback who knows most of the personnel on this defense or does it lie with defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer and assistant Hue Jackson?

Zimmer has game planned for Palmer twice in the past as a defensive coordinator with the Cowboys and Falcons but Jackson knows Palmer the best. He recruited Palmer to Southern California and then was the driving force behind the trade from the Bengals to the Raiders last October.

"He feels like he knows me, he knows Leon (Hall)," safety Chris Crocker said of the matchup. "He doesn't know the other guys back there, but he probably feels like he has a good bead on us. He knows how we like to play and how aggressive we are. Some things schematically, I'm sure he remembers."

For the Bengals defense it will be a good test. They have allowed only one touchdown over the past two games and have done a good job in shutting down vertical receivers. Against the Giants, Victor Cruz was held to only three receptions while Dwayne Bowe was shut out last week in Kansas City.

The Bengals, though, have been known to struggle against speed receivers, which is what Oakland has in Denarius Moore and Darrius Heyward-Bey. The advantage for the secondary though is that almost everyone is healthy. Hall and Terence Newman have been solid the past three games at corner while Crocker has helped stabilize things at safety.

The pass rush is also coming into its own as Geno Atkins (8.0) and Michael Johnson (6.0) have matched or surpassed career totals in sacks.

The other thing the Bengals cannot afford is a letdown, which this team has been known to have in the past. Off of two straight wins, they are in the middle of a favorable stretch of games where they get 3-7 Oakland, travel to 4-6 San Diego, host 5-5 Dallas and then go to 3-7 Philadelphia.

They go into Week 12 one game behind Indianapolis and Pittsburgh for a playoff spot. The talk amongst players this week hasn't been about Palmer's return, but still digging out of the hole of an earlier four-game losing streak, which included defeats against Miami and Cleveland.

When asked if this game is more personal than others considering the foe, head coach Marvin Lewis said: "Every game we play is personal to us. We put ourselves in the situation where there are playoff opportunities involved and implications for us over the next six weeks, and the last two after the loss to the Broncos. In order to win the division, we have to win each game, and then whatever happens after that happens. Our guys realize that, and this is the next week coming."
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