Cincinnati Bengals (2-0) at Carolina Panthers (1-1)
The Bengals are one of a few surprise 2-0 teams, as they’ve won games over the Ravens and Colts in which they were small underdogs. The Bengals were just 7-9 a year ago, but they significantly improved their offensive line this off-season and had several key skill position players returning from injury plagued 2017 seasons. They’ve continued to play well defensively, even with linebacker Vontaze Burfict suspended, while their offense has been much improved.
Unfortunately, the Bengals didn’t make it out of their Thursday night win over the Ravens without some key injury losses, with both center Billy Price and running back Joe Mixon out for at least a couple weeks. Price was one of the offensive line upgrades they added this off-season, while Mixon’s emergence as a feature back in his 2nd year in the league has been a big part of the reason why the Bengals have been improved offensively. Without them, passing down back Giovani Bernard will have to carry the load behind a downgraded offensive line.
Fortunately for the Bengals, they face an even more banged up opponent this week. For the second week in a row, the Panthers will be without three projected starting offensive linemen, left tackle Matt Kalil, right guard Trai Turner, and right tackle Daryl Williams due to injury (after losing left guard Andrew Norwell to the Jaguars in free agency this off-season). They’ll also be without tight end Greg Olsen and safety Da’Norris Searcy. There’s not quite enough line value with the Bengals to bet on them as 3 point underdogs, but the money line makes sense at +125, as this game is close to a toss up.
Cincinnati Bengals 20 Carolina Panthers 19 Upset Pick +125
Pick against the spread: Cincinnati +3