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This Week Versus Last Week

This past week, the Bengals bounced back from a tough loss against the New England Patriots and beat their division rival Baltimore Ravens. The Bengals defense came back in a big way and chased Joe Flacco all over the field causing him to throw four interceptions including one to Adam Jones. The offense sputtered at times but they still managed to move the ball into field goal range five times so new kicker Mike Nugent could go 5-5 and score the Bengals their 15 points.

This week, the Bengals take a trip to Charlotte, NC to take on the Carolina Panthers who will be starting rookie quarterback Jimmy Clausen for the first time against the tough Bengals defense. The Bengals are favored to beat the Panthers by three. Let's see how the Panthers match up against the Bengals compared to how the Ravens did.

Joe Flacco VS Jimmy Clausen:

Do we even really need to do this? Of course I'm going to say that Flacco is better. Maybe eventually Clausen will be the better quarterback but Flacco has been in the league longer and he's been to the playoffs and he's been to the AFC Championship game. Clausen hasn't done any of that. The Bengals may not have the best record against rookie quarterbacks but I don't think that will stop the Bengals from taking care of business this Sunday.

Winner: Joe Flacco

What the Bengals need to do:

So, remember what I said about how the Bengals defense had Flacco running for his life throughout the game? Well, that's exactly what they need to do to Clausen this Sunday. The front four need to apply just as much pressure as they did against Baltimore and Mike Zimmer needs to apply the pressure from linebackers and the secondary liberally. If they can at least knock Clausen around for a while and keep him from feeling comfortable in the pocket, they could seriously damage his calm and cause him to throw a couple interceptions. Can you say "pick-6?"

Panthers Running Game VS Baltimore Running Game:

For the most part, the Bengals defense contained Ray Rice. They held him to 87 yards on the ground and 30 reception yards but the biggest news is that they kept him out of the end zone. Rice has proven to be one of the more elusive backs in the NFL since his debut in 2008. On top of dealing with Rice, the Ravens have Le'Ron McClain and the very talented Willis McGahee that the Ravens use in different packages. This weekend, the Bengals have just as big of a threat to deal with in the form of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart which has proven to be one of the NFL's most deadly running back duos over the past couple seasons.

Winner: Panthers Running Game

What the Bengals need to do:

Surprised? I am actually a little surprised that I picked the Panthers too but DeAngelo Williams is one of the better running backs in the league and few running backs compliment each other the way Williams and Stewart do. Williams is the work horse and Stewart is a speedy change of pace guy who is just as deadly catching the ball out of the backfield as he is taking handoffs. To stop this dynamic duo, the Bengals should stack the box. The Panthers will probably have a very run-heavy offensive game plan in order to protect Clausen from getting his feelings hurt too much. The Bengals should know this coming in and apply a lot of pressure with linebackers and safeties along with the defensive line in order to stop the run. Once they do that, they will force Clausen to throw the ball. But throw the ball to who?

Panthers Receivers VS Ravens Receivers:

Steve Smith is one of the better receivers in the NFL. He's coming into his tenth season as the Panthers number one receiver and in those ten seasons, he's had over 1,000 yards in five of them. He'll keep either Leon Hall's or Jonathan Joseph's hands really full throughout the game. The problem with the Panthers is that when it comes to their wide receivers, not only is Steve Smith the best option to throw to but he's also kind of the only option. Steve Smith may be better than Baltimore receivers T.J. Housmandzadeh, Derrick Mason and Anquan Boldin but Carolina doesn't have three slightly less talented Steve Smiths to throw to.

Winner: Ravens

What the Bengals need to do:

This one is simple. Stick Steve Smith. Hall and Joseph are both perfectly capable of doing the job. If you take away the running game and force a rookie quarterback to throw, that rookie quarterback may want to keep his eye open for his most talented receiver. If you can successfully take that option away, you seriously disrupt that rookie quarterback's ability to move the ball because you force him to look at other options and deal with pressure at the same time. When it comes to quarterbacks, coaches usually have the theory walk before you can run. Well unfortunately for Clausen, he doesn't have time to walk, he's got to run right away and if the Bengals play their cards right, they'll have Clausen crawling by the end of the game.

Panthers Defense VS Ravens Defense:

Ray Lewis, Haloti Ngata and Terrell Suggs play for the Ravens and not the Panthers.

Winner: Ravens Defense

What the Bengals need to do:

The Bengals need to do what they tried to do against the Ravens and what they did in the second half against the Patriots. Run the ball up the middle with Cedric Benson and use Bernard Scott as a change of pace guy and throw the ball just as much as they run it. Use the play fake to keep the defense honest and on it's toes. Not many teams have the talent to cover Chad Ochocinco, Terrell Owens, Jordan Shipley and Jermaine Gresham. The Panthers don't have it so the Bengals should make them pay. Establish the run early and force the Panthers to cheat up and then burn them deep. If the Bengals can do that, Palmer, Ochocinco and Benson can make their fantasy owners very happy.