Panthers’ Linebackers vs. Gio Bernard
For the second week in a row the Panthers defense will have to go up a talented all-purpose running back. Last week, Bears’ running back Matt Forte gashed the Panthers for 166 yards from scrimmage with 101 of those yards coming through the air.
The Bengals have a similar player in Gio Bernard who can hurt opposing defenses both on the ground and contribute in the passing game. Through four games, Bernard has 405 yards from scrimmage and three rushing touchdowns. The Bengals running back is sure to be a big part of their game plan, especially if A.J. Green is out this week. The Panthers defense is going to need a big game from Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis to try and contain Bernard.
Bengals Defensive Line vs. Panthers Offensive Line
The Bengals defensive line has talented players however they have not produced at a high level this year. Defensive tackle Geno Atkins, who is a leader on this team, is trying to work his way back from an ACL injury but it has been a slow process. The Bengals defense has been getting beaten on the ground, giving up five yards per carry and a healthy Atkins would make a big difference in this stat.
The Panthers offensive line on the other hand has struggled for most of the year, both in run blocking and pass protection. They did a better job against Chicago and it may be enough to get the job done against the Bengals.
Going into this game the biggest concern for the Panthers has to be Carlos Dunlap, who has accounted for three of the eight sacks the Bengals have this year. If they are able to slow him down, they should be able to win the battle in the trenches.
This is not necessarily a head to head matchup but is certainly a storyline to watch Sunday. Cam Newton was the first quarterback, and the first player, taken in 2011. Andy Dalton on the other hand was the fifth quarterback taken and had to wait until the second round to hear his name called.
It hasn’t mattered where they were drafted as both quarterbacks have found success early in their career. Newton got off to a fast start in his career and broke a number of records as a rookie. He has thrown or rushed for 97 touchdowns so far in his career. Dalton on the other hand was thought of more as a game-manager to start his career. He has been given more responsibility as the years have gone on to lead this offense.
In terms of team success, Dalton has the slight edge as he has led the Bengals to the playoffs every season he has been there but has yet to win a playoff game. It took Newton’s three years in the NFL to reach the playoffs but he fell short last year against the 49ers.
It will be interesting to see which 2011 NFL draft pick will have a better game and can lead his team to a victory.