NFL Week 4: Panthers vs Ravens Preview


The Carolina Panthers are beat up right now and in search for answers as to how they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers at home last week. The Panthers run defense got shredded as the top two running backs for the Steelers both had 100 yard rushing performances. It was an unexpected outburst and an unexpected collapse all at the same time.

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On the other side of the ball, the Panthers had no running game at all. Injuries took out two backs. Even though Cam Newton threw for 250 yards, the offense did not show a consistent ability to move the ball. Throw in two fumbles and you get 37-19 as your final.

All that sounds pretty tough, but then you throw in this week’s opponent. The Baltimore Ravens blew out the Steelers in week 2. The transitive property of football tells you that a team that blows out a team that blew you out should also blow you out. To make matters worse, this the Steve Smith “blood and guts” game where at least one Raven will be looking to do the Panthers in. It’s time for Panthers vs Ravens.

Date: September 28

Time: 1:00 PM

Venue: M & T Bank Stadium (Baltimore, MD)


Sep 22, 2014; Owings Mills, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh speaks during his weekly press conference at Under Armour Performance center. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Opponent: Baltimore Ravens (2-1)

The Ravens are more famous for their off field handling of the Ray Rice situation than their on field performance so far this year. The offense of the Ravens is now even more centered on the best player in football, Joe Flacco. Flacco has thrown for four touchdowns this year and his most productive receiver has been former Panther Steve Smith.

Flacco also enjoys a tight end attack similar to Carolina’s with Dennis Pitta and Owen Daniels. While Pitta gets all the fantasy football raves, it is Daniels who has appeared in the red zone and the end zone to surprise fantasy owners and real defenses alike.

Baltimore has settled on a two back attack since the release of Ray Rice. They will try to use Justin Forsett and Bernard Pierce the same way that the Steelers used LaGarrette Blount and LeVeon Bell. Pierce is a little nicked up, but he should play.

Aug 7, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens tackle Haloti Ngata (92) during the game against the San Francisco at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

The Baltimore 3-4 defense still has some its most fearsome pieces in the front seven. Haloti Ngata still eats space in the middle, and Chris Canty does a serviceable job at the end. The rush linebackers can be very dangerous when Elvis Dumervil is paired with Terrell Suggs on passing downs. That will give the Panthers offensive line plenty to handle, and they are still vulnerable on that front.

The Panther offense will need to establish the run to prevent Suggs from simply blitzing every play. That will fall to not 100% but possibly goggle wearing DeAngelo Williams. If the line can take advantage of 5 on 3 matchup, then the Panthers could remain on schedule on offense. That would allow Cam Newton to feel less pressure on third down and keep options open.

If the pass rush can be neutralized, then Newton could have a big day against the Baltimore secondary. The Ravens back group has looked questionable at times. They particularly disliked having to cover AJ Green in week 1. If Kelvin Benjamin can continue his good play from the Steeler game, then there may be opportunities there.

Ravens Player To Watch: Steve Smith, WR

Is there any other? Smith has done his ‘blood and guts’ bit and he has a great track record of the getting the best of people he is trying to get the best of. He also happens to be the leading receiver on the Ravens right now. How comfortable are you with the Panthers secondary? Is this a week where we miss Greg Hardy?

Sep 14, 2014; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Colin Cole (91) and defensive end Charles Johnson (95) reacts toward the end of the game. The Panthers defeated the Lions 24-7 at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Panthers Player to Watch: Charles Johnson, DE

With Hardy out, it will be interesting to see how teams block Johnson. No other Panther lineman has Johnson’s reputation for sacks. It is also possible that he will see former North Carolina Tar Heel James Hurst on the other side. Hurst was an undrafted rookie after his injury at the end of his senior season. Eugene Monroe, the starter at tackle, is hurt and Hurst is his logical replacement. Regardless, the more pressure that Johnson can create, the better off the rest of the Panther defense will be.

Prediction: Ravens 23-14
ONJ Season Record: 15-2

Right now I have a hard time seeing the Panthers offense functioning at full capacity. Maybe I respect too much the impact that Ngata will have on the running game. I also think that Smith will simply find a way to prevail and the Ravens at home are a bit better than the Panthers on the road.