As Carson Palmer's learning curve accelerates, the more rapidly the Bengals' overwhelmingly bad recent history seems to fade. From 1991 through last year's seventh game, Cincinnati's record was 65-150; since, the team has won eight of 11, averaging more than 28 points per game. Now it has a chance to start 3-0 for the first time since 1990, the last time the team went to the playoffs.
Overshadowed by the league's top-ranked offense is the surprising success of the defense. Cincinnati has allowed only 21 points largely because it has forced a league-high 10 turnovers, making sure the so-far lethal offense gets plenty of chances.
The turnovers also cover up what could be a vulnerable run defense. While the Bengals are allowing only 86 rushing yards per game, ninth in the league, they allow an NFL-worst 5.4 yards per attempt. They have trailed for all of six minutes this season, forcing their first two opponents to pass nearly three times as often, so it hasn't mattered yet. It could today: Bears RB Thomas Jones (4.9 yards per carry, 139 last week vs. Detroit) has been a surprise, and while rookie QB Kyle Orton has showed promise, he won't be asked to carry the team.