Five things to watch: Bengals vs. Panthers

The Bengals return to Paycor Stadium to beat NFC Southern opponents for the third time this season when they take on the Carolina Panthers on Sunday. This match airs at 1 p.m. on FOX. Here are five things to watch out for:

Quarterback Joe Burrow entered Sunday for 372 passing yards for less than 10,000 for his career. If he hits that mark in his 35th game, he will tie Justin Herbert as the second-fastest player in NFL history to reach the 10K milestone. Burrow in Week 3 for over 8,000 yards, tying for the third fastest quarterback in history to do so (29 games), and in Week 7 over 9,000, tying for the fourth fastest (33 games).

Throwing for 372 yards is certainly within reach of Burrow, who currently leads the NFL in passing yardage with 2,329. He faces a Carolina secondary of the week who is 20th in the league in passing defense (232.0 yards allowed per game).

2. Young corner gets a chance

With several veteran Cincinnati cornerbacks listed on the injury report this week, the Bengals may turn to a pair of rookies to fill a key role against the Panthers. Namely, Cam Taylor-Britt could make his second start in a row, and defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo could even deploy to the safe and versatile Dax Hill when needed.

The Bengals secondary would line up against Carolina’s passing offense which averaged just 187.1 yards per game (28th in the NFL). The Panthers also performed slightly better protecting the ball, as they were 0-5 in games where they intercepted, and 2-1 in the free turnover contest. The young Cincinnati ballhawks who didn’t let quarterback P.J. Walker to get into the rhythm will go a long way towards picking up an important home win.

Defensive end Sam Hubbard has 2.5 sacks over the last three games after only totaling one in the first five weeks. His passing success of late has put up a dangerous display for the opposing offensive line, which already faces the task of blocking Pro Bowler Trey Hendrickson on the other end. Hubbard still retains his status among the league’s elite running defensemen, though, as his seven tackles for loss led Cincinnati and tied for sixth among all defense ends.

Hubbard throughout his career has had the ability to carry momentum from one week to the next. Last season, he held to 1.5 sacks through the first five games, then amassed six sacks over the next six. For the Bengals to head into a farewell week with a winning record, they may need one—or both—of their star bait runners to make a splash in the Panthers’ backfield.

Last Monday’s game in Cleveland marked the second time in his career that Evan McPherson has missed a field goal and an extra point attempt in the same contest. The first example came in Week 1 of the season against Pittsburgh, and after his performance, McPherson is ready to bounce back.

In Week 2 in Dallas, he attempted each of his three field goal attempts for 43, 46 and 50 yards. McPherson went on to convert six of seven punts in Weeks 3-7, the only error being a 41-yard hit at N.Y. Jets with the game in hand. During that stretch he hit for 57 yarders against Miami in Week 4 and 52 yarders at New Orleans in Week 6. McPherson also had 16 straight PAT hits after the Pittsburgh game.

The Bengals have enjoyed one of the NFL’s best home field advantages this season, and will be counting on the Paycor Stadium crowd once again as they look to score three straight regular season home wins for the first time since 2017.

Cincinnati beat Miami on Thursday Night Football in Week 4 in front of a declared crowd of 67,260, marking the largest home crowd in Bengals history. That figure surpasses the previous record of 66,277 set in the win over Las Vegas in last season’s Wild Card Playoffs.

The Bengals opened their 2022 campaign against Pittsburgh in front of a crowd of 65,841. Later in Week 7, they welcomed 66,158 fans to a win over Atlanta, which came in as the fourth-largest number in team history. If Cincinnati pulls 65,000 on Sunday, it will be the first time the team has entertained that many fans in four straight games since 2007.

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