The Carolina Panthers and Cincinnati Bengals, who are both coming off very surprising performances, will meet in Cincinnati on Sunday in a game that both teams need to win.
The Panthers went down 21-7 early against the Chicago Bears last week, but stormed back and won 31-24.
Meanwhile, the Bengals, who were the last undefeated team in the league, were handled by the New England Patriots 43-17.
Both games were surprising for these franchises, as each seemed to be headed in a different direction. The Panthers had lost their previous two games by a combined score of 75-29 and looked like they would suffer another blowout when they went down early. The Bengals looked like arguably the best team in the league with their 3-0 record and great performances before facing the Patriots.
Both teams need a win this week. The Panthers are first in the NFC South with a record of 3-2, but with the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints right behind them with each having a 2-3 record, they may not be in first for much longer. The Bengals are also in first in their division, the AFC North, with a 3-1 record. Every team in that division is breathing down their neck. The Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens are both 3-2. The Cleveland Browns are surprisingly 2-2. Cincinnati may not be holding that lead for long.
Carolina got back to their normal way of playing defense in the second half last week: aggressive, physical, fast. The previous two games, they’d been slow and undisciplined. It looked that way in the first half last week as well. After making some halftime adjustments and getting their tough defense back, the Panthers will need to carry their momentum into Cincinnati if they want a chance. The key will be containing running back Giovani Bernard and shutting him down. With their star receiver A.J. Green potentially missing this game with a toe injury, quarterback Andy Dalton will have a much more difficult time in the passing game. If the Panthers can take away the run game, it’ll be easier to get pressure on Dalton. Carolina has proven this year that if they can get pressure on the quarterback, they can force turnovers and win. They’ll need to stick with that formula come Sunday.
Cincinnati is also known for their defense. For all the talk about it, it hasn’t been nearly as good so far this year, as the Bengals are 19th in passing yards allowed per game (250.8) and 27th in rushing yards allowed per game (140). With the way that Carolina has run the ball so far this year, they may not have to worry too much about the run game. The key for them will be getting pressure on quarterback Cam Newton. It shouldn’t be too difficult to do so. Carolina’s offensive line is arguably the worst in the league. Cincinnati will need to follow a similar formula that Carolina must also follow: shut down the run game, get pressure on the quarterback and force mistakes and turnovers.