The Baltimore Ravens flew south and hope to give the Carolina Panthers a whopper of a hangover by the time today's game is over. The Ravens (6-3) are among the better teams in the league while if the season ended today, the Panthers (1-8) would be rewarded with the #1 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.
Carolina has been beset with injuries and the reserves and other backups have just not been able to overcome them. They said goodbye to long-term QB Jake Delhomme, and in his place both Matt Moore and rookie Jimmy Clausen have since gone down to injuries. That leaves today's starting assignment to recently signed eight-year veteran Brian St. Pierre, who has only thrown five passes in his career. The Panthers also have rookie Tony Pike (Cincinnati) on it's roster.
Most people think that it doesn't matter who starts for Carolina, as playing the Ravens defense today will end up a losing proposition regardless. The Ravens are off a mini-Bye after losing at Atlanta to the Falcons on Thursday Night Football a week and a half ago and are well rested, healthy and anxious to win a game and have it over by halftime for a change.
Most Ravens fan's concerns have been the apparent lack of killer instinct we've seen from Baltimore over the course of the season. Losing fourth quarter leads and sometimes the game as well has been their reputation in 2010. If they could put teams away in the final fifteen minutes when they have them down, they could easily be 8-1 with the best record in the NFL instead of 6-3, yet still in the lead of the AFC North.
At the same time, this game today should be exactly what the doctor ordered for what ails the Ravens - a team without an identity on both sides of the ball. The injuries to Carolina have them a double-digit underdog at home and there is really no reason why the Ravens shouldn't easily cover the spread. Baltimore's run and pass game should be able to move the ball almost at will and put points on the board. It will all depend on how many points the Ravens choose to score, as if they have a comfortable halftime lead, will they come out aggressive at the beginning of the second half or just try to maintain ball control and work the clock?
I'd like to see Baltimore pile on the points if they can to prove to themselves they can put that proverbial foot on the throat of a weakened opponent. At the same time, let's get out of this game first with a win, then concern ourselves with staying healthy for the final six weeks of the season.
Do not expect the Panthers to just roll over and not play hard for their coach and teammates. They will throw the playbook at the Ravens, as they are a wounded animal and have nothing to lose. I wouldn't be surprised to see St. Pierre have a career game, but then again, after only throwing for twelve yards in his career, he should "enjoy" a career game no matter what.
The Ravens secondary has been suspect and even St. Pierre plans to exploit it. Do not rule out All-Pro wide receiver Steve Smith, who has burned the Ravens in the past, as Baltimore has never beaten Carolina in their history. Today should end that trend as the Ravens move the ball, put enough points on the board, then coast to victory with their reserves getting most of the late action in a mop-up role.
(Join us for an 'Open Thread' at gametime today)
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