Coming off a dominating effort on both sides of the ball, the Bengals look to improve to 3-0 for the first time in 15 years when they visit the Chicago Bears.
Cincinnati is 2-0 for only the fourth time since 1990—the last time they started 3-0, had a winning record and went to the playoffs.
“We’re not making a big deal out of it,” Palmer said. “We’ve got 14 teams that will play us harder now that we’ve kind of got an ‘X’ on our chest, since we’re one of the few teams that are 2-0.”
Cincinnati intercepted Daunte Culpepper five times and recovered two fumbles in a 37-8 victory over the Minnesota Vikings last Sunday, making it easy for Palmer, Chad Johnson and Rudi Johnson to do their thing.
“It’s not one-sided, the way people are depicting it,” Bengals Pro Bowl tackle Willie Anderson said. “Who knows? The defense could be 10 times better than us.”
The expectation was that the offense would carry the team for the first few weeks while the defense came together. Coach Marvin Lewis changed coordinators in the offseason, promoting Chuck Bresnahan, and drafted linebackers David Pollack and Odell Thurman in the first two rounds.
“Our defense is playing phenomenal,” said Palmer, who completed 27 of 40 passes for 337 yards and three touchdowns last week. “It has really exceeded a lot of people’s expectations.”
Palmer, and an offense that leads the NFL with an average of 462 yards per game, figures to challenge a Chicago defense that is banged up.
Starting left defensive end Adewale Ogunleye and backup linebacker Joe Odom underwent MRIs Monday after leaving in the first half of last week’s 38-6 victory over Detroit with ankle injuries. Ogunleye, who missed four games last season with a calf injury, is questionable while Odom won’t play.
After opening the season with a 9-7 loss at Washington, the Bears responded by intercepting Lions quarterback Joey Harrington five times and holding Detroit’s running backs to 29 yards on 18 attempts.
Chicago got touchdowns from the offense, defense and special teams, the offensive line held its ground, Thomas Jones rushed for 139 yards, and rookie quarterback Kyle Orton played well as the Bears racked up their most points since a 47-17 victory over Tampa Bay in September 1993.
Orton completed 14 of 21 passes for 150 yards, and didn’t throw an interception after being picked off in the end zone against Washington.
“He just looks more and more confident at the position,” Bears coach Lovie Smith said.
Smith also saw improvement in rookie running back Cedric Benson. After missing the first five weeks of training camp because of a contract holdout and playing sparingly against Washington, Benson rushed for 49 yards on 16 attempts.
“We need to win a couple games before we can really say we feel good about ourselves,” Bears receiver Muhsin Muhammad said. “We won one game, and we just evened up the score.”