The Carolina Panthers (0-2) will try to jumpstart their offense when they give rookie quarterback Jimmy Clausen his first career start against the Cincinnati Bengals (1-1) on Sunday. The Panthers find themselves to be 3-point home underdogs on the NFL spreads following consecutive losses to Tampa Bay (20-7) and the New York Giants (31-18) to start the season.
Carolina has produced just two touchdowns through the first two games, both on passes from former starting quarterback Matt Moore to wide receiver Steve Smith. Moore did not lead any other touchdown drives though and threw four interceptions, prompting Panthers head coach John Fox to give Clausen an opportunity. Clausen has completed 7 of 15 passes for 59 yards with no touchdowns and one interception over two games in relief of Moore and will likely lead a conservative offensive gameplan that is re-focused on running the ball.
Running backs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart have been limited so far this season for Carolina after they helped spearhead the third-best rushing attack in the NFL a year ago at 156.1 yards per game. Williams and Stewart each rushed for over 1,000 yards last season, and they have been held to a combined 171 yards and no touchdowns in two games this year.
Cincinnati’s running game has not been much better, as Cedric Benson has totaled 121 rushing yards on 38 carries with one touchdown after going for 1,251 yards last season. The Bengals are also still trying to get their passing game on track led by quarterback Carson Palmer, who was able to connect with wide receivers Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens a combined seven times in a 15-10 win over Baltimore last week. They managed to score just five field goals by Mike Nugent against the Ravens and need to start putting the ball in the end zone.
Ochocinco and Owens were supposed to be a formidable duo for Palmer in the passing game. But Owens in particular has not been able to locate the ball despite getting some attention, as he has been targeted 24 times in two games with only 10 receptions for 110 yards to show for it. Ochocinco has 16 catches for 203 yards so far and has scored one of two touchdowns through the air for Cincy this season (rookie tight end Jermaine Gresham had the other).
The Panthers have faced the Bengals just three times in the last 11 years, going 2-1 straight-up and 2-0-1 against the spread. The UNDER is 2-1 in those games, although the lone OVER cashed when the total was set at 37.5. The line looks a touch too low in this contest and should be closer to -4, BUT the Bengals have always been a terrible favorite for NFL handicappers. There are much better games to wager on this Sunday, including one where we have a 20 unit NFL Game of the Month going. Get these strong picks from the nations best sports handicappers by visiting our NFL handicappers picks page.