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09-21-2018 19:00

Post-Hurricane Florence Pummeling: Panthers Bracing for Bengals and Yes,.... More Rain

by Will Strome | 09-21-2018 19:00

The Carolinas have been devastatingly crushed by Hurricane Florence and finally for the first time in a chaotic week, the East Coast will get a temporary breather from the downpours. But, it won’t last long. Hurricane season is far from over but for the moment, North and South Carolina can expect a brief few days of dry weather before more rain rolls through towards the end of this coming weekend. Charlotte is expecting rain Sunday all the way through Thursday, arriving just in time for the Cincinnati Bengals’ trip to the Carolina Panthers Sunday afternoon.

Andy Dalton Andy Dalton. Photo courtesy of USA Today.

According to NFLWeather.com, overcast skies are in the forecast with rain in the morning. Even if the precipitation dies down come the 1pm kickoff, the grass surface inside Bank of America Stadium should be slick. It won’t be a surprise to see players try out a couple different lengths of cleats during warmups. Temperatures should stay in the high-70’s with wind being a minimal factor, maxing out around 4-5 mph.

The last time the Carolina Panthers (1-1) hosted a rain game was a 20-17 loss to Kansas City in 2016. But, prior to that, the Panthers last home loss in the rain was to the Bengals back in 2010 Since 2010, the Panthers are 4-4 in rain games but their Heisman Trophy winning quarterback does post a career rain game winning record.

Cam Newton is a perfect QB for competing in crummy conditions. With a 4-2 record in the rain, Cam’s ability to control the game while battling the elements is not something all NFL quarterbacks can do. With a 56% completion rate in the rain (112-of-200), he’s totaled 1,325 yards and seven passing touchdowns. He’s also ran for two scores and over 180 yards, making him a dangerous dual threat in games where passing is considered a premium.

But against the Bengals, Carolina will likely lean on their sophomore sensation Christian McCaffrey, both in the ground game and passing attack. McCaffrey managed only 37 yards rushing last week but caught 14 passes for 102 yards out of the backfield. As the weather worsens, quick screens and short passes to the former Stanford star will likely be the go to.

With Greg Olsen likely out for a minimum of five weeks, Carolina needs someone to step up in the passing game to avoid solely having to rely on Cam and McCaffrey. Wide out Devin Funchess is penciled in as the number one receiver but still has yet to produce impressive starting WR statistics. Along with Funchess, tight ends Ian Thomas and Chris Manhertz could see some heavy targets, especially in the red zone.

Like Carolina’s QB, the Cincinnati Bengals (2-0) have a gunslinger under center who doesn’t seem to get flustered when bad weather is looming in the forecast. Andy Dalton is a career 5-1 in rain games and averages 34 passing attempts per game, meaning a damp football doesn’t deter Dalton from veering away from the passing game. Wide out AJ Green will without question garner the most targets but Tyler Boyd has stepped up and performed well over the last two weeks. They’ve needed another threat in the passing game given tight end Tyler Eifert has only been targeted seven times this season. Expect Sunday to likely be Eifert’s breakout game.

The Bengals will need guys to step up for Dalton, especially if running back Joe Mixon can’t play. If Mixon doesn’t dress, Gio Bernard will get the bulk of touches and a lot will be expected from the versatile veteran back. Over the last few rain games, it appears Dalton favors finding his tight ends and running backs and little will likely change this weekend.

According to the NFLWeather Historical Analytics, since 2010 the Bengals are 6-3 in the rain with the last road rain game victory being against Carolina (20-7) back in 2010. If Cincinnati can continue playing a complete game like it has been the last two weeks, the Bengals will be a shocking 3-0 and easily one of the most deceivingly dangerous team in the league.

While the rest of the country, the Midwest especially, is expecting the first signs of autumn this weekend by welcoming cooler weather; the East Coast is still very much focused on the Tropical Storms still in the Atlantic basin. Just because Florence has come and gone, doesn’t mean we’re through the thick of it yet... and there’s a good chance that’ll be glaringly apparent for Sunday’s non conference Panthers-Bengals bout.

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