Game Notes: Cincinnati Bengals at Carolina Panthers

Cordy Glenn

Kickoff: 1 p.m. Eastern.

Television: The game will air on CBS-TV. In the Bengals' home region, it will be carried by WKRC-TV (Ch. 12) in Cincinnati, WHIO-TV (Ch. 7) in Dayton and on WKYT-TV (Ch. 27) in Lexington. Broadcasters are Kevin Harlan (play-byplay), Rich Gannon (analyst) and Steve Tasker (sideline reporter).

Radio: The game will air on the Bengals Radio Network, led by Cincinnati flagship stations WLW-AM (700), WCKY-AM (ESPN 1530; all sports) and WEBN-FM (102.7). Broadcasters are Dan Hoard (play-by-play) and Dave Lapham (analyst).

The game also will air nationally on the Sports USA radio network. Broadcasters are Larry Kahn (play-by-play) and John Robinson (analyst). 

Setting the scene: The Cincinnati Bengals this week travel to Charlotte, N.C., to play the Carolina Panthers on Sunday afternoon at Bank of America Stadium.

The 2-0 Bengals enter the contest with an early lead in the AFC North Division standings. With a 34-23 victory vs. Baltimore last week, Cincinnati already has a head-to-head win over the second-place Ravens (1-1) and stands a game and a half ahead of the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cleveland Browns (each are 0-1-1). 

The Bengals this week are positioned in stark contrast to where they stood after two games a year ago, when they were 0-2 and struggling offensively. In addition to reversing the numbers in the won/lost columns in the standings, they enter this week's game against the Panthers ranked No. 4 in the NFL in scoring (34 points per game). Last season after an 0-2 start, they were ranked last in the NFL in scoring with just nine total points and had yet to score a touchdown. The poor start on offense last year prompted the team to make a change at offensive coordinator, promoting quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor into that role prior to the third contest.

"This is a new season," said head coach Marvin Lewis. "We didn't get off to a very good start last year, and obviously we were at a low point at this time a year ago. Unfortunately, we had to make some changes that were hard to make, and we have moved forward from there. I think the changes we made in the offseason (this year) have continued (to move us in a positive direction)."

The offseason changes to which Lewis refers include additions to both the coaching staff and the roster. Not only did Lazor have the opportunity to install his own offensive system throughout the offseason, but Lewis also welcomed six new coaches to his staff this year. It marked the highest number of new assistant coaches in Lewis' 16-year tenure as Bengals head coach. 

And on the roster, the Bengals acquired five players who are starters and are new to the team this season — seventh-year OT Cordy Glenn (via a trade with Buffalo), fifth-year LB Preston Brown (UFA from Buffalo), fourth-year OT Bobby Hart (free agent), rookie C Billy Price (first-round draft pick out of Ohio State) and rookie S Jessie Bates (second round draft pick out of Wake Forest).

"From the onset of this offseason, we knew what the things were that we needed to do to get better, and I thought we did a fine job with them," Lewis said. "We are only two games into the season, and we still have to prove it over the next 14 as well, but the things we set out to do, we have accomplished thus far. We are checking those boxes, so we feel pretty good about things."

Heading into the Panthers contest, there are statistics for Cincinnati worth noting on both offense and defense. Cincinnati has scored 34 points in each of its first two games. That marks the first time in team history the Bengals have scored at least 34 points in each of their first two contests. In addition, their 68 total points is the second highest point total after the first two games of a season in team history, behind only the 72 points scored over Games 1-2 in 2007.

And on defense, the Bengals have five takeaways in their first two contests, already more than a third of their 2017 total of 14. The team's plus-three turnover differential is tied for second best in the NFL.

The Bengals' offense is led by QB Andy Dalton and WR A.J. Green. Dalton has completed 64.3 percent of his passes for 508 yards, six TDs and just one INT. His 108.5 passer rating ranks third in the AFC and seventh in the NFL.

Green, who had a career-high three TD catches last week vs. Baltimore, has 11 receptions for 161 yards and four TDs. His 24 points are tied for most in the AFC and second most in the NFL among among non-kickers. The Bengals' defense is anchored by DT Geno Atkins and DE Carlos Dunlap. Atkins has nine tackles, and his three sacks are tied for second most in the AFC and tied for third most in the NFL. Dunlap has one sack, and his four passes defensed are the most in the NFL for a non-defensive back. On special teams, K Randy Bullock's 20 points are most in the AFC and third most in the NFL among kickers. 

Carolina enters Sunday's contest at 1-1. The Panthers lost to the Falcons in Atlanta last week, 31-24.

The series: The Bengals and Panthers have played only five times and have split 2-2-1. The Bengals lost the first two, won the next two, then played to a 37-37 tie in the last meeting, in 2014 at Cincinnati. 

The Bengals are 1-2 against the Panthers at Carolina. In their most recent visit to Carolina, the Bengals recorded a 20-7 win, in 2010. Carolina did not begin play until 1995, and even after this week's game, the Panthers still will be the Bengals' least-played NFL opponent at six.

Five teams are tied for the second fewest number of matchups against the Bengals at 11 — the Arizona Cardinals, the Chicago Bears, the N.Y. Giants, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Washington Redskins. That number will drop to four teams after Week 8 this season, when the Bengals host the Buccaneers.

The Bengals' series with the Houston Texans stands at 12 total games, but two of those contests were playoff games (after the 2011 and '12 seasons). Thus, if one was to count regular-season games only, the Bengals-Texans series has the second fewest number of matchups with 10.

The Bengals have visited to play the Panthers fewer times (three) than any other NFL franchise. The franchise with next-fewest number of visits by the Bengals is the Arizona Cardinals. The Bengals have visited the Cardinals four times — once while the Cardinals were based in St. Louis, and three times with the Cardinals in Arizona.

Bengals-Panthers connections: Panthers LB Luke Kuechly is from Cincinnati (St. Xavier High School) ... Bengals S Jessie Bates played at Wake Forest University ... Bengals LB Vincent Rey played at Duke University ...Bengals HB Giovani Bernard played at the University of North Carolina ...Bengals DE Carlos Dunlap is from North Charleston, S.C. ... Bengals WR A.J. Green is from Summerville, S.C. ... Bengals CB Tony McRae is from Laurinburg, N.C., and played at North Carolina A&T University ... Panthers WR Curtis Samuel played at Ohio State University ... Bengals WR Auden Tate is from Irmo, S.C. ... Panthers assistant offensive line coach Travelle Wharton played for the Bengals in 2012 ... Bengals special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons was on the Panthers' coaching staff from 1999-2002 ... Bengals defensive line coach Jacob Burney was on the Panthers' coaching staff from 1999-2001 ... Bengals defensive coordinator Teryl Austin coached at Wake Forest University from 1993-95 ... Panthers defensive line coach Brady Hoke is from Dayton, Ohio, and coached at the University of Toledo from 1987-88 ... Bengals secondary/safeties coach Robert Livingston is from Hendersonville, N.C., and coached at Furman University in 2010 ... Bengals strength and conditioning coach Chip Morton attended the University of North Carolina and was on the Panthers' coaching staff from 1995-98 ... Panthers special teams coordinator Chase Blackburn is from Marysville, Ohio ... Panthers strength and conditioning coach Joe Kenn coached at the University of Louisville from 2008-09 ... Panthers linebackers coach Steve Russ coached at Ohio University from 2001-04 ... Panthers defensive coordinator Eric Washington coached at Ohio University from 2001-03 ... Panthers RB Reggie Bonnafon (practice squad) is from Louisville and played at the University of Louisville ... Bengals secondary/cornerbacks coach Daronte Jones coached at Lenoir-Ryne University in 2001 ... Panthers running game coordinator John Matsko coached at Miami (Ohio) University from 1974-75.