Cincinnati Bengals (1-1, 1-1 ATS) at Carolina Panthers (0-2, 0-2 ATS), Week 3 NFL, Sunday September 26th, 1:00PM Eastern Bank of America Stadium Charlotte, N.C.
By Jay Horne, Professional NFL Football Handicapper of Predictem.com
Betting Odds: Cin -3/CAR +3
Over/Under Total: 39
Last week the Carolina Panthers proved that they may just be the worse team in the NFC South as they were upset by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Some would call it an upset, but I would call it an “I told you so.” The Panthers proved yet again that it is extremely hard to have success without solid play at the quarterback position on the NFL stage. After starting QB Matt Moore completed just 42% of his passes in week 1, the Panthers quarterback backed that up by completing just 37% in a 20-7 loss to the Buccaneers. Just think two years ago the Panthers ended the 2008 season with the best record in the NFC. Fast forward to present day and those same Panthers are in serious jeopardy of facing another 0-3 start for the second year in a row.
After giving Moore his shot to run the offense, Carolina will now put the ball in the hands of rookie QB Jimmy Clausen. I said a week ago that Clausen is the future for the Panthers and the quicker they can get him accustomed to the NFL stage, the better the Panthers chances are at improving on offense. While I’m sure there are some growing pains to come, Clausen has good poise and a very strong arm that can make all the throws necessary to be effective. It will come down to how the rookie’s decision making pans out over the upcoming weeks that will determine if he will be the guy to ignite the sputtering offense.
One big time weapon that Clausen has to target is WR Steve Smith. Smith is a big time playmaker who has averaged 17 yards per receptions thus far this season while scoring a touchdown in each of the first two games. Outside of Smith the rest of the receiving core is quite young as they anticipate another player to step up and contribute alongside with Smith. Still, the Panthers have only managed 153 passing yards per game this season. Opposing defenses have completed stacked the box to stop a once extremely dangerous rushing offense. However, running back DeAngelo Williams has just 116 yards on the season due to the Panthers predictable offense. Don’t expect defenses to back off the ball until the Panthers prove they can move the ball through the air.
On the other side of the field, the Bengals scored a very big victory over the Baltimore Ravens last week 15-10. The Ravens were predicted by many analyst to contend at making a run at the Super Bowl this season but the Bengals defense forced 4 turnovers to hand the Ravens their first loss of the season. Despite QB Carson Palmer completing just 45% passing last week, he did put up very solid numbers in week 1 against the Patriots by throwing for 345 yards. The Ravens defense made the Bengals offense look much worse than they were, but do not be surprised if they provide a lot more sparks this Sunday.
“Batman and Robin” lead the passing offense in receptions. Terrell Owens caught 3 passes for 57 yards while Chad Ochocinco caught 4 passes for 44 yards. While those numbers were not very impressive, that could be a bigger compliment to the Ravens defense. The Bengals offense has all the tools to be very strong in the passing game and tailback Cedric Benson can make things happen on the ground as well. Considering the Panthers have been very susceptible to the pass giving up 218 yards per game, expect Palmer to test the secondary often with a solid group of wide outs who love making big plays.
OT: Early betting lines have opened favoring the Bengals at an even 3 points and have held fairly sturdy at that particular mark. Also, early public action shows over 80% of action being laid on the Bengals possibly due to the Panthers offensive woes. However, the Bengals are just 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games while the Panthers hold the same 1-4 mark ATS in their last 5 games as well. Also, the total has been posted at the 40 mark. The Bengals have pushed over the mark in 4 of their last 5 games while the Panthers have kept scoring on the under side of the total in all 5 of their last outings.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Clausen will not be the answer in his first start, but may play well enough to keep the starting position which will not be hard. Still, the Bengals will roll big in this one. Take Cinci to win and cover the points here.