Will the Panthers Win in Cincinnati? Take a Guess
The NFL has long been the hardest American sport to predict. But picking out the top teams this season is a tougher challenge than usual.
The Panthers followed up two season-opening wins with a couple blowout losses. In Week 5, they had one bad half and one great half in a win over the Bears.
The Bengals started the year with three wins and were the NFL’s last unbeaten team. They then were embarrassed by 26 points at New England.
So what will happen when the Panthers and Bengals meet this weekend in Cincinnati? Who knows?
“The league is up and down this year. We’re a prime example,” Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said. “We play good our first two weeks; we play bad our second two weeks, and then we play good again. I think the league is evolving because of the way player movement is today.”
Parity helped the NFL become biggest behemoth in American sports, but it seems even harder to pick out the top teams in the league this year. Rivera believes an increased shuffling of free agents has led to most rosters being in a state of flux, and that has led to the greater unpredictability.
The Bengals loss to the Patriots meant that for just the second time since 1971, not a single team started off 4-0. And it’s not like Cincinnati even put up much of a fight on Sunday night.
"I think obviously we got our feelings hurt. We got our nose rubbed in it,” Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis admitted on a conference call with Carolina media on Wednesday.
But Lewis and the Bengals now get a chance to rebound at home, where they've won a franchise-record 11 straight games.
Running back Fozzy Whittaker is one of the few Panthers who have played at Cincinnati's Paul Brown Stadium. He was with the Browns last year when they were sent back to Cleveland with a 41-20 loss.
“They have great fans. The stadium is going to be rocking. It gets very loud, so communication is going to be key for us," Whittaker said. "We just have to go in there and take the momentum from them.”
And while that may appear like a long shot considering the Bengals haven't lost at home since 2012, as this NFL season is making abundantly clear yet again — anything can happen on any given Sunday.