A few pregame notes on the Bengals-Panthers contest Sunday, along with my prediction:
-- Jimmy Clausen better provide that spark John Fox wants so badly Sunday. Fox doesn’t have a whole lot of cards to play after this one. I think Clausen will do enough things right to at least start next week at New Orleans, too -- a more difficult assignment than this one.
-- The Panthers can’t really be any worse in the red zone, so I’m guessing they will be better Sunday under rookie quarterback Clausen. In four of six red-zone (inside the 20) chances this season, Carolina has come away with zero points four times.
-- The Panthers’ odds to win the Super Bowl have gone from 55-1 in the preseason to 150-1 today, according to oddsmaker BoDog.com.
-- Cincinnati intercepted Baltimore's Joe Flacco four times last week and has to be salivating at getting a chance to rattle a rookie. Any defensive coordinator is going to blitz a rookie QB, so the first two seconds of every dropback is going to be extremely important to Clausen.
-- The 52 points Carolina scored against Cincinnati in 2002 remain the most ever scored by any team vs. the Bengals – and the most the Panthers have ever scored as well. You might remember that Steve Smith scored TDs of 31, 61 and 87 yards in that one (the latter two on punt returns).
-- Terrell Owens has long been a thorn in Carolina’s side. In 15 games over his career against the Panthers -- nearly a full season’s worth – Owens has had 1,110 receiving yards on 75 catches vs. Carolina. That’s more receptions and yards than T.O. has against any other team over his career. The Panthers have to be more worried today, though, about Chad Ochocinco, who is playing as well as any receiver in the NFL.
-- The only way I think the Panthers win this one is if they rush for 150 or more yards on the ground and win the turnover war.
-- The Panthers need this one badly -- and my colleague Ron Green Jr. thinks they will get it. But I think Cincinnati is a slightly stronger team overall. My pick: Bengals, 23-17.