Not too high and not too low.
That is what veteran defensive end Carlos Dunlap said about the team's psyche during Monday's media session when asked about the Bengals' 2-0 start.
While fans are enthusiastic that the Bengals are one of seven teams who are 2-0 after week two, head coach Marvin Lewis and the team understand that Sunday's game against the Carolina Panthers presents a tough road challenge.
Since last playing on Sept. 13, the Bengals (2-0) hope the extra couple of days assist with the preparation for the Panthers (1-1), who are coming off a 31-24 loss at Atlanta on Sunday.
Carolina showcases one of the best home field advantages in the league winning seven of their last nine at Bank of America Stadium.
1. Containing Cam – Since 2013, teams that have opened with a 2-0 start have made the playoffs 23 out of 40 times, good for 57.5 percent. To get to 3-0 and improve the Bengals' playoff chances, they will have to stop Cam Newton, one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks of all-time.
Newton holds the NFL record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback with 55, and he's third in career rushing yardage from his position. His 4,420 yards trail only Michael Vick (6,109) and Randall Cunningham (4,928).
Newton looks as good as ever entering 2018. In the Atlanta game, he completed a career-high 32 passes on 45 attempts for 335 yards and three touchdowns. He also led the Panthers in rushing for the second game this season with 42 yards on five carries.
He is prone to turnovers throwing 16 interceptions last season and fumbling nine times (though only one was lost). The Bengals already have five turnovers this season with three interceptions and two fumble recoveries.
2. Spread the Wealth – The Falcons snapped Carolina's 21-game streak of not allowing a 100-yard rusher, as Atlanta backup Tevin Coleman carved the Panthers' defense with a 107-yard performance.
Bengals fans are seeking something similar from sixth-year back Giovani Bernard, who like Coleman will be filling in for a starter.
With Joe Mixon likely out on Sunday, Bernard should see an increased workload. Bernard registered 208 rushing yards, 133 receiving yards on 16 catches and two touchdowns in a span of three games when Mixon was injured last December.
Yet the offensive production won't all be on Bernard's shoulders.
Facing a similar defense in Baltimore last week, the Bengals found ways to get a balanced attack going after A.J. Green caught his first three passes for touchdowns. Three different tight ends had multiple catches and Tyler Boyd led the receivers with 91 yards on six catches with one score.
3. Blitz Pickup –The Bengals believed the offseason additions of tackles Cordy Glenn and Bobby Hart, along with center Billy Price in the draft helped fortify the offensive line.
Early on the results have been encouraging. Last week, the Ravens blitzed 13 times against the Bengals and did not sack Dalton, which is impressive considering Price left after 19 offensive plays. Hart held future Hall of Famer Terrell Suggs to zero sacks and tackles. Trey Hopkins, who came in for the injured Price, also enjoyed a strong performance, opening up holes in the run game.
According to Pro Football Focus, the Panthers are one of the most blitz heavy teams in the NFL, blitzing on 32.8 percent of defensive snaps. Against Dallas, the Panthers sacked Dak Prescott six times, but failed to sack Matt Ryan in Atlanta the following week. Last year, the Panthers ranked third in the NFL with 50 sacks.
Kickoff: 1 p.m. Eastern.
Television: CBS will air the game with Kevin Harlan (play-by-play), Rich Gannon (analyst) and Steve Tasker (field reporter) on the call.
Radio: The game will air on the Bengals Radio Network, led by Cincinnati flagship stations, 700WLW, ESPN 1530 and 102.7 WEBN. Broadcasters are Dan Hoard (play-by-play) and Dave Lapham (analyst).