The Cincinnati Bengals did not do themselves any favors by losing to the Cleveland Browns 32-13 on Monday night, making them 4-4 on the season and 0-3 in the division. When it comes to the Browns, the Bengals have struggled to find wins against their rivals up North leaving the coaches, players, and fans shaking their heads. This poor performance is one everyone wants to put behind them quickly.
Almost worst than the loss itself is losing top cornerback Chidobe Awuzie to a season-ending ACL injury. Being able to shut down receivers, coming up with big plays, and his leadership in the secondary will be missed as the season continues. The Grueling Truth always tries to find you the best football odds.
Coming to town is the Carolina Panthers, with a 2-6 record. After replacing their head coach during the season with Steve Wilks and trading off receiver Robbie Anderson and all-pro running back Christian McCaffery, they hope to pull off a victory in the Jungle. The Bengals will need to regroup and get this win at home, giving them the same 5-4 record as last year going into the bye week.
All stats courtesy of ESPN
Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow and his offense had one of their worst games last week. Being shut out for three quarters is not an option against the Panthers. With key players missing on both sides of the ball, everyone will need to step up in this game to pull off a win. The excitement from a crowded stadium may be the spark needed to help the players get through this game.
As fans, we know what Burrow is capable of when given time. Burrow will need to get in a rhythm early, so the offensive line needs to do a much better job blocking while being more efficient with communication at the line of scrimmage. For Burrow to get off to a fast start while taking advantage of a Panther’s banged-up secondary is a key to winning this game, but it all starts up front.
Do not let the Panther’s record fool you. They have talented defensive linemen who can get after it. Bengal’s left tackle Jonah Williams and right tackle La’el Collins need to step up their game. This line will again be tested by defensive tackles Brian Burns and Derrick Brown. Especially with the exceptionally skilled Burns, who could give Burrow fits if unblocked. Stopping these two in their tracks will be a priority. The offense can not shut down because of the pass rush.
Bengal’s head coach Zac Taylor must find a way to get Tyler Boyd more involved in the game plan. Whether you line it up in the slot or move him outside, he must be targeted a lot in this game. With his sure hands, sneaky speed, and ability to get open, he can completely dismantle a hindered secondary of the Panthers.
Boyd’s presence on the field could also open up other targets like vertical receiver Tee Higgins. Using more of the middle of the field is what Burrow may need to do to move the chains while he waits to take some deep shots with Higgins.
Panther’s secondary is banged up. Cornerback Jaycee Horn will play but is still trying to recover from a hip injury, while Donte Jackson may be limited with a bad ankle. They will also be thin at safety as defensive back Myles Hartsfield will fill in at that position. Burrow can exploit this if given the opportunity.
It has been no secret that Mixon and the run game have struggled this year, so could this be the game Mixion breaks off some big runs? Would this coaching staff consider using Samaje Perine to run on short downs? After all, he has 4,3 yards to Mixon’s 3.3 yards per carry. Something to think about when looking for ways to take pressure off Burrow while controlling the clock.
Then there is the multi-talented running back Chris Evans, who can elude tacklers with his running style. Last week he showed his play-making ability on the first drive with a 26-yard pass. Once again, the weapons are there when utilized with creative playcalling.
The Carolina Panthers will send out former XFL player P.J. Walker as their starting quarterback. Walker deserves enormous credit for winning the job and has the skills to sling the ball around. He has talented receivers and is not afraid to stretch the field with them.
The Bengals must find a way to contain the Panther’s top receiver, D.J.Moore. He had 152 yards in six receptions last week against the Falcons. Walker and Moore will test this young Bengal’s secondary early. LSU alumni Terrace Marshall Jr. also had a coming-out game last week and will be another receiver to keep an eye on.
The Bengal’s secondary took some hard blows last week by losing Awuzie for the season, while top slot corner Mike Hilton injured his finger, causing him to sit out this game. Veteran corner Eli Apple will be back on the field this week, looking to get exact revenge on his old team.
Rookies Dax Hill and Cam Taylor-Britt will have more prominent roles this week, filling in for injured starters. Both Hill and Taylor-Britt will be learning on the job as they look to stop the air attack of the Panthers.
The Bengal’s defense takes on another excellent running attack from D’Onta Foreman. Bengal’s defensive coordinator Lou Anaruno is no stranger to Foreman as he watched him break off big runs again the Stripes last year in the playoff game when Foreman played for the Titans.
With the Bengal’s elite defensive tackle D.J. Reader still out, they will have close down the gaps, not allowing Foreman to gain any momentum. Defensive tackles Jay Tufele, B.J Hill, and Cam Sample must earn their money this week, proving they can come up with the big stops when needed. Linebacker Logan Wilson and fellow linebackers will also be called to help contain the run game. Except for last week, this defense has done a solid job with opposing running teams.
Walker must not be allowed to sit back in the pocket and take advantage of the banged-up Bengal’s secondary. One matchup to keep a tab on is Panthers rookie standout Ikem Ekwonu against disruptive force Trey Hendrickson. Ekwonu will have his hands full as he tries to stop the power and agility of Hendrickson.
However, Hendrickson alone can not be the only source of pressure. It will be imperative for Sam Hubbard to contribute along with Joseph Ossai, who is nursing a bad ankle. Together they must disrupt Walker’s tempo enough that it affects his third down efficiently.
The Bengals must protect Burrow on offense, giving him enough time to pick you apart. If the Bengals can burn the clock on long drives and control the time of possession, it would go a long way in helping out the defense.
On the other side of the ball, the defense will need to increase the pressure on Walker, making him feel uncomfortable under center. Allowing the Panthers to build momentum while keeping the game close is something the Bengals do not want to partake in.
In the end, it may just come down to the special teams unit all doing their part, from Kevin Huber punting the ball better to Evan McPherson with an expanded role this week.
This is a must-win for the Bengals if they plan on making a playoff run in the second half of the season.
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