The Panthers lead the NFL with 5.2 yards per carry; the Ravens’ 3.4 yards per carry average ranks 31st
Ravens defenders said the Saints’ commitment to running the ball Sunday wore them down late, and the Panthers have the ability to offer a similarly punishing attack. Baltimore has allowed the fifth-fewest yards per carry in the NFL this season, but its pass defense is even better, ranked as the league’s best by most statistical measures. So Carolina is likely to run the ball early and often. And on the other side of the things, the Ravens have struggled to close out games as their ground game remains stagnant, a trend they’ll aim to reverse in Charlotte.
The Panthers’ third-down defense (32.8 percent conversion rate) ranks fourth in the NFL
The Ravens’ success on third downs on both sides of the ball has been among the most promising aspect of their first seven games. Quarterback Joe Flacco and a revamped receiving corps have helped the Ravens convert 46.3 percent of their third downs this season, which ranks fifth in the NFL. It’ll be a challenge to keep the chains moving against the Panthers, though.
In a contest between relatively evenly matched teams, the time of possession battle may determine the victor.
Panthers vs Ravens offensive preview: Panthers will need to be quick against a stingy Ravens defense - Ashley Barnett
Power runs: The Saints’ dynamic running duo in Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara was a big reason for their success against the Ravens. New Orleans ran for 134 yards on 39 attempts against a very good front. The run game kept the Raven’s defense on their toes. Despite all his power, Christian McCaffrey won’t be able to carry the workload on his own. Panthers’ need to switch things up whether it comes from CJ Anderson, Alex Armah, or Newton himself.
Establish short yardage passing game: The Panthers have been notorious this season for slow starts. Against a stingy Ravens’ defense, Carolina may not be given a second chance for a comeback. It’s important to keep in mind that the Saints became the first team this season to score a touchdown on the Ravens’ defense in the second half. The Saints were able to score on back-to-back 12-play touchdown drives. The Panthers’ offense needs to come prepared in the passing game and keep the defense honest with short throws, screens, and misdirection.
Slot corner Tavon Young against Panthers rookie receiver D.J. Moore could prove to be a pivotal matchup. Former Raven Torrey Smith will also return to Baltimore on the heels of his two best outings this season.
John Brown’s connection with Joe Flacco involves late brother - Jamison Hensley
Whether it’s in the end zone, on fourth down or deep downfield, Brown and Flacco have formed the best new tandem in the NFL this season. They immediately built a trust, and as Brown puts it, an instinctual bond.
”It’s just something about Joe Flacco,” Brown said. “I have a feeling when I know the ball is coming to me.”
Flacco says the rapport with Brown began to take shape in training camp. Brown says he believes it goes beyond and deeper than that.
During free agency, Brown received contract offers from the Buffalo Bills and the Oakland Raiders. He chose to come to Baltimore because of a strong-armed, Super Bowl-winning quarterback who wore the same uniform number as his late brother.
“When we were in pads, against a good defense in our own -- you could really start to see some of the things that make him special,” Flacco said. “He’s really smooth, he has really good ball skills, and he does a lot of things really well that help him out.”
The connection between Joe Flacco and John Brown has been apparent throughout the season. If Brown remains healthy and productive for the rest of the season, the front office should prioritize he re-signing above their other impending free agents.
BALTIMORE RAVENS: Buy wide receiver Demaryius Thomas. In Ozzie Newsome’s final season as general manager, it couldn’t get more perfect than for the player personnel guru to stick to his M.O. and acquire a big-bodied veteran receiver to contribute to a postseason run. The 6-foot-3 Thomas said Monday he knows his time in Denver is nearing its end, and at 30 years old, he likely would appreciate another shot at the postseason over the fate most of us expect the 3-4 Broncos to realize come December. His contract makes it a tough squeeze for a Ravens team that has a hair over $5 million in cap space, according to Over The Cap. But with the season halfway over, Baltimore might be able to shoehorn in his remaining base salary for 2018 before taking a hard look at redoing a deal that pays him way too much in 2019 (see: a $17.53 million cap hit). Potential compensation: 2019 fourth-round pick.
Thomas’ versatile teammate Emmanuel Sanders would be a better fit for the offense because Demaryius’ skill set is quite similar to Michael Crabtree’s. However, trading for either of the Broncos high paid receivers does not make much financial sense for a Ravens team tight on salary cap space.
Week 8 NFL picks, predictions - David Steele
Baltimore Ravens (4-3) at Carolina Panthers (4-2)
Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS
Cam Newton engineered the Panthers’ comeback that put the Eagles in that hole, and it put Carolina in the thick of the NFC South race. The Ravens were excruciatingly close to pulling out a win against a Saints team with the top offense in the NFL, and they kept New Orleans in check most of the day. Another chess match between rugged defense and explosive offense is on deck. The Panthers’ defense, though, has enough of an edge on the Ravens’ offense to tip the scales. Prediction: Panthers, 26-24
A 1-point opening line has been bet up to Ravens -2 or -2.5 with 65-percent of wagers against the spread placed on Baltimore.