Comparing Bengals' Dalton to QB peers

CINCINNATI -- Marvin Lewis expressed regret Wednesday for comparing his starting quarterback earlier this week to others of this era. As a result, he said he will be avoiding doing the same for players from other positions for the foreseeable future.

But even if the Cincinnati Bengals coach decides he no longer wants to talk about why Andy Dalton and Carson Palmer have similarities, that doesn't mean the rest of us can't continue on with our own comparisons.

You may have read Lewis' comments on the ESPN NFL Nation Bengals blog when he shared his thoughts on why it seemed his current starter, Dalton, has been a target for unrelenting attacks about his play.

(Now might be a good time to inform you that Dalton was named the AFC's offensive player of the week on Wednesday, his second such award. He was recognized for passing for 337 yards and three touchdowns in Sunday's 27-24 overtime win at Buffalo.)

"I don't know if his predecessor has won these kind of games week in and week out," Lewis said of the nail-biter. "That's important all the time. The ultimate goal we all have is to win the football game."

Lewis said he thought Dalton was the subject of constant criticism because his timeline for success and the level of expectation that goes along with it, was different -- more advanced, one could argue -- than what some of his peers have faced. Even his "predecessor," Palmer, didn't have quite the same level of fan and franchise hope and faith placed upon him.

"There's a couple different comparisons," Lewis said. "Are you comparing Andy to Matt Ryan? Are you comparing Andy to Drew Brees? Aaron Rodgers? It depends on who you want to compare him to. You know what I'm saying? Those latter two are a different time frame [from when they first started games]. They sat around and watched for three years, four years and then they got an opportunity."

Dalton, who was drafted three years ago and started right away, hasn't been afforded that same acclimation time as Brees and Rodgers, quarterbacks who have since won Super Bowls. Neither was Ryan, who started immediately for the Falcons in 2008.

"We're asking for Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers right now, today," Lewis said.

It's funny Lewis mentions that. We decided to take a look at Brees, Rodgers, Ryan and Palmer, and seeing how their first 38 games compared to the 38 that Dalton has now made it through (see chart). Even after having time at the beginning of their careers to play the role of understudy, neither Brees nor Rodgers nor Palmer accomplished some of what Dalton has in such short amount of time.

Rodgers had been to the postseason once before his 38th game, but he didn't play. Two weeks after that particular milestone -- for these purposes it's a milestone, at least -- he finally started a playoff game but lost in the wild-card round.

Brees didn't make his first trip to the postseason until several games after his 38th start. He, too, suffered a wild-card loss that year.

In 2010, Ryan made his second playoff trip, several weeks after he passed his 38th game. Likewise, he had first-round exits in both his first and second postseason trips.

Palmer's only playoff trip before his 38th game came with him on the bench in the 2005 playoffs. He threw just one pass, a 66-yarder in an opening-round loss to Pittsburgh.

Dalton saw the postseason each of his first two seasons and is poised to become just the fifth quarterback in NFL history to start his career with three straight playoff appearances.

When it comes to wins, only Ryan had more after 38 games. Ryan had 26, Dalton has 23. If winning is what's important, Dalton is doing that.

Even though he has been known to avoid passing deep downfield, Dalton still has racked up the passing yards. Only Palmer at 9,051 had more passing yards through 38 games than Dalton, who has 8,619. Dalton has attempted more passes than any of the others did through their first 38 games, and he also has more sacks than the rest of them.