Kevin Eck Ravens Are Unanimous Pick to Beat Panthers
The pundits aren't overthinking this one.
The Ravens, who are 13-point favorites over the Carolina Panthers in Sunday's game at M&T Bank Stadium, were picked to win by all 44 pundits we looked at. Of the 26 who predicted the score, 18 had Baltimore winning by 13-plus points.
On paper, the game does indeed appear to be a mismatch.
The AFC North-leading Ravens (6-3) are riding a three-game winning streak and coming off their bye week. Baltimore is 11-3 after a bye under Head Coach John Harbaugh. Moreover, the Ravens are 13-0 when favored by 13-plus points under Harbaugh.
They're hosting a Panthers team that is 3-7, including an 0-4 mark on the road. Carolina is starting former Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield, who has struggled this season. Mayfield is 1-4 as a starter this season year and has lost seven of his past eight starts.
All that said, the Ravens know better than to underestimate any team.
"We don't take it lightly on any opponent," Lamar Jackson said on Wednesday. "This is an NFL game. Every team has the best players in the world out there, so we're not going to shy away from any opponent out there on that field."
Here's what the pundits are saying about the game:
The Ravens will win convincingly.
The Baltimore Sun's Childs Walker: "The Ravens opened as double-digit favorites for a reason. It's difficult to identify a path to victory for the Panthers, who will travel to Baltimore with a bottom-10 defense and the league's worst quarterback so far this season in Mayfield. The Ravens will not give Carolina much room for hope as they begin their push for a high playoff seed."
FanSided's Matt Vederame: "The Ravens have traditionally been excellent against bad teams with Lamar Jackson helming them. No reason to think Carolina is beating a well-rested Baltimore squad at home."
Pro Football Talk's Michael David Smith: "Lamar Jackson should have a big game against an overmatched Panthers defense and the Ravens should cruise."
The Ravens' potent running game will be on full display against a Panthers defense that allowed 241 rushing yards and five touchdowns in a lopsided loss to the Bengals in Week 9.
Bleacher Report's Maurice Moton: "In that game, running back Joe Mixon had a career day, rushing for 153 yards and four touchdowns. The Baltimore Ravens' second-ranked ground attack shouldn't have an issue shredding the Panthers. Lamar Jackson, Gus Edwards (if healthy) and Kenyan Drake could run laps around Carolina's run defense Sunday."
Don't expect the Panthers to get off to a fast start.
Fox Sports' Warren Sharp: "We have a clear edge to the Ravens to start this game. The Panthers have scored a touchdown on 4-of-54 (7.4%) first-half drives, 31st in the league, while the Ravens have allowed a touchdown on 7-of-49 (14.3%) of opponent drives in the first half, No. 2 in the league. At home, the Ravens have played the Dolphins, Bills, Bengals and Browns offenses. Those teams rank second, fifth, sixth and eighth in efficiency. And the Ravens still held them to seven, 10, 10 and 10 first-half points while leading in three of the four games."
Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio: "Big lead for Ravens. Garbage-time scores for Panthers. Baltimore continues to prove its Super Bowl chops."
Jackson will get the better of fellow 2018 first-rounder Mayfield.
USA Today's Lance Pugmire: "Baker Mayfield returns to start, but he'll likely be banging his head against a defensive wall this time as fellow Heisman winner Jackson provides a defining look at the separation in talent.
Mayfield will play well enough to prevent a blowout.
The Athletic's Jay Morrison: "I think Baker versus Baltimore will be closer than the number suggests. The Ravens win, but not by two touchdowns. Let's say 30-20."
A matchup to watch is the Ravens' outstanding offensive line against the Panthers' stout defensive line.
Baltimore Positive's Luke Jones: "Sporting Pro Football Focus' top pass-blocking grade, the Ravens offensive line will need to account for Pro Bowl edge rusher Brian Burns and talented defensive tackle Derrick Brown. Carolina has talent in its front seven and ranks ninth in the league in blitz rate, which is always notable against Jackson."
Can Ravens Go on a Run Like They Did in 2019?
With the way the Ravens' running game has been clicking and defense has been improving, combined with what appears to be a favorable schedule and several key players expected back from injury in the coming weeks, the opportunity is there for Baltimore to get on a roll similar to what it did in 2019.
That season, the Ravens won 12 consecutive games after a 2-2 start. This year's team started 3-3.
"The more these Ravens win, the more inevitable the comparisons to those Ravens will become," The Baltimore Sun's Jonas Shaffer wrote. "An accommodating second-half schedule, starting Sunday against the rebuilding Panthers, has only stirred up hypotheticals about just how easily the team might glide into the playoffs. If the Ravens' win over New England [in Week 9 following their bye week] in 2019 became that offense's launchpad, a Week 11 home game against a battered and beaten-up Carolina defense could herald a similar onslaught."
Shaffer contended that the 2022 Ravens offense might have entered the bye week in an even better place than the record-setting 2019 unit.
"They've been more efficient, according to Football Outsiders' metrics," Shaffer wrote. "They've been more balanced, though the loss of top wide receiver Rashod Bateman to a season-ending foot injury has weakened the passing attack. And, maybe most promisingly, they've yet to get the best of their superstar quarterback."
Shaffer said this season's team has "structural advantages" over the 2019 Ravens: "A more mature Jackson; a more diverse running game; a more accomplished receiving corps, led by All-Pro tight end Mark Andrews."
Is the Ravens' Remaining Schedule Deceptively Tough?
As noted above, the Ravens' schedule going forward isn't daunting on paper, as they'll face only one team - the Bengals in Cincinnati in Week 18 - that currently has a winning record.
However, the Ravens' remaining schedule could be tougher than it appears at first glance, according to Sports Illustrated's Todd Karpovich, who analyzed why each game might be difficult. Here's a look at four of them:
Week 12 at Jacksonville Jaguars (3-7)
"The Ravens historically have not played well against the Jaguars and are 10-12 against them all-time. Baltimore is also just 3-7 when playing in Jacksonville/London."
Week 13 vs. Broncos (3-6)
"The Broncos have one of the best defenses in the NFL, allowing the fewest points per game (16.6) and ranking second in yards allowed (290.4). The problem is the offense can't score points. The Ravens might have to prepare for a slugfest."
Week 15 at Browns (3-6)
"Quarterback Deshaun Watson is expected to play in this game, which could rejuvenate the Browns' offense. The Ravens can't afford to slip in the AFC North, especially with the Bengals on their heels. Cleveland played the Ravens tough at M&T Bank Stadium before losing 23-20 in Week 7."
Week 17 vs. Steelers (3-6)
"The teams [are meeting for the second time] in less than a month. Adjustments will be key. The Steelers will also have the opportunity to potentially play spoiler to the Ravens division crown or playoff hopes. Pittsburgh will embrace that role."
Ravens' 2022 First-Rounders Earn High Grades
CBS Sports' Chris Trapasso issued grades to each first-round pick from this year's draft, and Ravens safety Kyle Hamilton and center Tyler Linderbaum were among the elite members of the class.
Hamilton and Linderbaum, who were the 14th- and 25th-overall selections, respectively, both earned an A-minus. They were two of only five players to receive a grade of A-minus or better.
Here's what Trapasso said about the two Ravens rookies:
On Hamilton: "My No. 1 prospect in the 2022 class has been exemplary to begin his Ravens career. Despite a flashy prospect - tall, chiseled, athletic, etc. - he hasn't been that type of first-year defender. Hamilton has two pass breakups and no interceptions to date. But he's rarely been out of position on film and has handled multiple roles as a do-everything safety for [Defensive Coordinator} Mike Macdonald."
On Linderbaum: "Linderbaum looked like a future first-round pick from his first season at Iowa and he's played well beyond his years in his rookie season in Baltimore. He really feels like a Ravens blocker. Linderbaum's routinely destroyed linebackers at the second level. Just like he did in the Big 10. The pass-protection performance hasn't been quite as spectacular. It's coming along though."