Five fearless predictions for Sunday’s Carolina Panthers game against the Cincinnati Bengals:
1. This one’s a shootout.
The Panthers (1-1) are starting to find their offensive rhythm despite a tough 31-24 loss at Atlanta last week. The Bengals (2-0) are cruising offensively, with 34 points scored per game in their first two. Both teams will try to play fast, and that could lead to a shootout.
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2. Bengals defensive line eats again.
Against the Ravens last week, Cincinnati’s stout, athletic defensive line had four sacks and 10 quarterback hits. Carolina quarterback Cam Newton will be a little tougher to get to because of his mobility, but his offensive line is still figuring things out after both starting tackles went on injured reserve.
3. How much more from DJ Moore?
Panthers head coach Ron Rivera and offensive coordinator Norv Turner both said this week that they want rookie receiver DJ Moore to get more involved in the offense after a 51-yard touchdown catch-and-run last week.
Moore’s targets will almost certainly increase from the two he had against Atlanta. But I think it might take a few more games to really uncork Moore, despite the high potential he has flashed.
4. Carolina’s run defense returns to normal.
Because starting running back Joe Mixon will miss Sunday’s game with a knee injury, the Bengals will rely on a more dynamic-style of back in Gio Bernard.
Carolina’s linebackers and defensive line made some rare mistakes against the Falcons’ rushing attack and a similarly dynamic back in Tevin Coleman last week, and Coleman became the first 100-yard rusher against the Panthers in 21 games.
But those mistakes will get shored up on Sunday, and Carolina will hold the Bengals’ run game to 65 yards.
5. The bottom line.
Newton rushes for two scores, and running back Christian McCaffrey gets his first touchdown of the season — but it’s at receiver, off a wheel route. And the Panthers win the aforementioned shootout, 34-28.
Bengals at Panthers
Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte
Sunday, 1 p.m.