One of the marquee games on the Week 8 NFL schedule features the Carolina Panthers hosting the Baltimore Ravens. Kickoff is set for 1:00 EST on Sunday, October 28, at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. Fans in certain markets will be able to watch the game on CBS.
This game opened as a straight-up PK. However, early betting in Baltimore’s favor has made the Ravens 2-point favorites on the road. The over/under for the game is set at 43 points. Be sure to check out a full list of this week’s NFL betting odds.
After a promising start to the season, the Ravens appear to have hit a small speed bump. First, there was an overtime loss against the Browns in a 12-9 slugfest. Baltimore then suffered another loss last week, losing by a single point to the Saints after Justin Tucker missed what would have been a game-tying field goal late in the 4th quarter.
As a result, the Ravens are currently 4-3, which seems a little unfair based on how well they’ve played this season. Those recent losses have also left the Ravens tied with the Bengals and a game behind the Steelers in the loss column. Those two division rivals just so happen to be Baltimore’s next two opponents after this week’s road trip to Carolina. Needless to say, the schedule ahead is difficult, so it’s important for the Ravens to find a way to win on the road this week.
The Panthers, meanwhile, are riding high after last week’s comeback win over the Eagles. Carolina looked destined to lose their second game in a row before scoring 21 unanswered points to beat the reigning Super Bowl champions 21-17.
With last week’s win, the Panthers sit at 4-2 on the season, just a game behind the Saints for the top spot in the NFC South. With back-to-back home games coming off last week’s road win, it’s important for the Panthers to seize on that momentum. Carolina’s schedule is a little backloaded, so this is the part of the season where the Panthers have an opportunity to string a few wins together.
For the record, I’m still on the Baltimore bandwagon. At the end of the season, I think they’ll be a team to watch closely in the AFC. However, I have a hard time believing the Panthers as home underdogs. Carolina isn’t a pretty team to watch, but they get the job done. Also, the Panthers have won their last eight home games going back to last season. That’s too much for me to ignore, so I’ll lean toward Carolina as the home underdog.
Obviously, betting against the Ravens and their top-ranked defense shouldn’t be done lightly. However, the Panthers may be the kind of team that can grind out drives against the Baltimore defense. Carolina leads the NFL with 5.2 yards per carry running the ball. That doesn’t guarantee success against the Ravens. But it does mean the Panthers aren’t going to abandon the running game because they trust that success will come if they stay committed to it.
Admittedly, the Carolina passing attack isn’t that impressive, as the Panthers are not a threat down the field. That being said, Cam Newton has completed at least 60% of his passes in every game, so he’s at least consistent with his accuracy. The Panthers also have some good red zone targets in Devin Funchess and Greg Olsen. It’s also important not to overlook the fact that Newton has been at his best this season late in games. He showed just that during last week’s comeback win. He can also be a handful as a runner late in games when the defense starts to tire.
On the other side of the ball, the Ravens aren’t the type of team that’s going to run away with games unless their defense is able to pitch a shutout. Baltimore’s 25 points per game this season is actually just under 20 in their road games. Remember, they managed just nine points against the Browns a few weeks ago. Joe Flacco has been steady this year, but he rarely throws the ball downfield like he used to. The Ravens are also functional at best running the ball. In short, the Baltimore offense can be contained against good defensive teams.
One thing we can’t overlook in this game is the Carolina defense. At times, they can be vulnerable through the air, but the Carolina front-7 remains stout against the run. By stopping a lackluster Baltimore ground game, the Panthers can force Flacco into situations where he has to throw the ball down the field.
More than anything, I feel confident in this game being close and low-scoring heading into the 4th quarter. I’d be surprised if this game was decided by more than a field goal. That points me in the direction of the underdog, especially when the underdog is the home team. Long-term, I like Baltimore’s upside. But I’m just not comfortable going against the Panthers at home. I’ll take my chances with Carolina as the home underdog.