Matchup of the Week: Vontaze Burfict vs. Cam Newton


Vontaze Burfict’s matchup against Panthers quarterback Cam Newton will be the deciding factor in Sunday’s game. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

After suffering a significant defeat at the hands of the New England Patriots, the Bengals should be out to account for the several questions the game left regarding the team.  No player will have more of an impact on the game for the Bengals than Vontaze Burfict.  His absence from the last two games has been noticeable as the Bengals’ usually stout defense has looked weak and porous, especially against the run.  The Bengals have also had difficulty dealing with pass-catching tight ends, so the Panthers should present a tough matchup for the Bengals as they possess a quarterback who can run, when need be, while also having a great tight end at his disposal.

Cam Newton has been one of the league’s most potent dual-threat quarterbacks over the past few years.  Although Newton has avoided running this year as often as he has in the past, ignoring this ability could spell disaster for the Bengals.  According to several NFL pundits, Newton has also improved greatly as a passer this year in spite of his stats.

Despite of the Panthers choice to let Steve Smith go, Newton still has some impressive receivers at his disposal.  Both rookie wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin and tight end Greg Olsen are currently in the top 20 of receiving yards: 13th and 19th respectively.  Marvin Lewis expressed being impressed with Kelvin Benjamin when speaking about the matchup this week.

Greg Olsen is a fantastic receiving tight end who has given Newton a great target all over the field.  The Bengals’ struggles with these types of tight ends was on full display last week as the Patriots’ duo of Rob Gronkowski and Tim Wright tore up their defense.

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It’s these realities that will present Burfict, assuming he plays (he returned to practice on Wednesday), with a difficult matchup against the dual threat this is Cam Newton.  He will need to be on his game when identifying plays and getting his guys into position.  The Bengals cannot afford to let Olsen get open, so hopefully Burfict’s return will allow Emmanuel Lamur to better focus on coverage duties rather than filling in for Burfict’s role as he did against the Patriots.  Burfict will also have to make sure Newton is accounted for at all times as he could take off at any moment.

The Panthers may not have started this season in expected fashion, yet they’re still 3-2: albeit with a -16 point differential.  Either way, the Bengals can ill-afford to drop a second consecutive game following last week’s letdown.  Doing so would give the Ravens an open door to the divisional lead as they’ll face the lowly Buccaneers in Week Six.  The matchup between Vontaze Burfict and Cam Newton should be something to watch on Sunday.

Oh, and one last thing.  Vontaze Burfict should be aware that Cam Newton will put a hit on a linebacker (see Lance Briggs).