The Cincinnati Bengals disappointed fans with a Week 8 letdown against the Browns. They entered the final period down 25-0, and it was a defeat that had fans betting to replace several key starters.
At home against the Panthers in Week 10 was a get-right game for Cincinnati, and they did just that.
The Bengals were up 35-0 at half and went on to win 42-21. They held the Panthers' starting quarterback PJ Walker to just 3-for-10 passing and 9 yards. He also had 2 interceptions against what was expected to be a flimsy Bengals secondary.
As for the Bengals, Joe Mixon had five total touchdowns, four of which came on the ground. He totaled 22 carries with a 7-yards-per-carry average for 153 rushing yards. Mixon was an absolute stud.
That said, now 5-4 heading into the bye, let’s look at where national media has Cincinnati.
ESPN — No. 13 - Down from No. 12
This could be a collective defensive award for the way the unit has played at times throughout the beginning of the season. But Hendrickson has continued to be a one-man wrecking ball in the trenches. The defensive end might have only four sacks, but he ranks third in the NFL in pass rush win rate, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. Cincinnati ranks fifth in the NFL in fewest touchdowns allowed per drive. If Hendrickson continues to get consistent pressure off the edge, the Bengals will continue to have a playoff-caliber defense. — Ben Baby
NFL.com — No. 11 - Down from No. 10
It appears Joe Mixon has returned from the wilderness. The running back, who hadn’t looked like himself for much of the season, went supernova against the Panthers — piling up 211 total yards and five touchdowns in a 42-21 rout. The Bengals would love to see Mixon start stacking performances like this against better competition, but the back’s Week 9 explosion is a huge relief for an offense that was looking vulnerable after the double-jab of Ja’Marr Chase’s hip injury and a humbling Halloween night loss to the Browns. Joe Burrow is the type of star quarterback who can carry teams in trying times, but Mixon needs to be himself to make Cincy a credible Super Bowl contender. Sunday was, well ... promising on that front.
CBS Sports — No. 11
They got Joe Mixon going against the Panthers, which is big for the second half. They head into the bye feeling good about themselves now.
USA Today — No. 9 - same as last week
For the second consecutive year, they go into the bye week at 5-4. Last season, they won eight of their next 11 on the way to Super Bowl 56.
Yahoo! Sports — No. 12 - same as last week
Joe Mixon was due for a big game, but 211 yards and five touchdowns? That’s amazing. The Bengals need that element in their offense, definitely while Ja’Marr Chase is out and even when he returns.
Sporting News — No. 12 - up from No. 13
Joe Burrow needed a lot more help from the running game and Joe Mixon without Ja’Marr Chase after the Cleveland disaster. He got just that in a big way against Carolina and it also helped the defense rebound.
The Ringer — No. 10 - same as last week
Desperate to forget an embarrassing loss to the Browns on Monday Night Football the week prior, Joe Mixon and the Bengals set proverbial fire to the Panthers on Sunday. Mixon scored five touchdowns in a dominant 42-21 win over Carolina, helping the Bengals clear the .500 mark ahead of the team’s Week 10 bye. The road ahead, however, leaves no room for error if Cincinnati is going to make the postseason.
FanDuel currently prices the Bengals at -122 to make the playoffs despite a tough slate of opponents to close out the season. Cincinnati’s remaining schedule is one of the hardest in the NFL, with games against the Titans, Chiefs, Bills, and Ravens in the next two months.
The Gameday — No. 8 - Up from No. 11
Joe Mixon found the end zone, not one, not two, not three, not four, but five times Sunday against the Panthers as Cincinnati dominated from the opening kickoff before taking their foot off the gas in the second half.
Head coach Zac Taylor will be more than pleased with his team’s performance heading into the bye.