Break up the Cincinnati Bengals. After two miserable seasons that saw them finish below .500 and fail to reach the postseason, Marvin Lewis got a reprieve and he’s making the most of it. Cincy sent a message to the rest of the AFC North with their win over Baltimore last Thursday, slapping 34 points on one of the better defensive clubs in the conference. The Bengals now begin a difficult two-game trip through the NFC South in Week 3 with a visit to the Carolina Panthers
This contest in Week 3 of the regular season will go down Sunday, September 23, 2018, at 1 p.m. ET at Bank of America Stadium.
NFL Opening Odds at BookMaker.eu
Cincinnati Bengals +3
Carolina Panthers -3
Carolina is favored by the value of home field advantage with the opening line at -3. There’s been little movement on the spread, but the Bengals have received a majority of the early action that could sway the number. Cincy covered in each of its first two games while playing as the favorite, now they get points in a tough road encounter. The total has remained at its opening of 44.
Joe Mixon – A potential big loss for the Bengals, who will be without the AFC’s leading rusher for at least two weeks after Mixon had a procedure done on his knee to remove some loose particles. Mixon ran for 84 yards on 21 carries against the Ravens, but felt some soreness in the joint that limited his snap count. He leads the conference with 179 rushing yards and is second in the entire NFL. Giovani Bernard and Mark Walton will pick up additional snaps in the meantime.
Da’Norris Searcy – Carolina’s starting safety exited last game with a concussion and is questionable to take the field against the Bengals. The Panthers also watched cornerback Donte Jackson leave with a hamstring injury, further impacting a thin group. The Panthers had one of their worst defensive showings allowing Matt Ryan to complete 82 percent of his passes for 272 yards while giving up 31 points.
Matchup to Watch
The main objective for Norv Turner when taking over as the Panthers offensive coordinator was to improve the accuracy of Cam Newton. Based on the early season results he’s been successful. Newton completed less than 60 percent of his throws over the previous four seasons and his career percentage entering this year was just 58.5. Whatever Turner is doing is working. Cam had a monster game last week going 32 of 45 for 335 yards and he’s completed 69 percent of his throws with three touchdowns and one interception.
The Bengals have surrendered a bunch of yards through the air and were torched by Joe Flacco for 376 yards last week. Flacco and Andrew Luck in Week 1 were playing from behind and the increased attempts resulted in more yards, but the Bengals still played soft and nearly allowed the Ravens to come all the way back from a 21-point deficit last week.
14 – Who needs Greg Olsen? Apparently not Cam Newton, who has turned to second-year back Christian McCaffrey as his favorite short range target. McCaffrey caught team record-tying 14 passes in last week’s game on 15 targets. The only miss was a Newton throwaway.
McCaffrey has 20 receptions for the year to place second in the league behind Michael Thomas and he’s given his quarterback an outlet that’s helped Newton increase his completion percentage. McCaffrey also boasts the elusiveness and breakaway speed to turn a short completion into a long gain.
Free ATS Pick
Ron Rivera was pissed after last week’s loss, calling out his defense for a poor effort. For a man who built his career on that side of the football, he knows what he’s talking about. I anticipate the Panthers will be a little more focused on that side of the football after coach’s outburst. Slowing down the Bengals should be easier with Mixon out of the mix.
With Dalton forced to throw the football, the Panthers can use their pass rush and get Julius Peppers more involved. Watch for Newton to do what he does best, and that’s to frustrate a defense with his scrambling ability. Carolina will win this game but I like Cincy and I think they can pull the upset if they win the turnover battle. But they will cover the spread in a close game.
NFL Betting Odds: Panthers 24, Bengals 23
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