Carolina Panthers vs. Baltimore Ravens
Date and Time: Thursday, 8/11/16, 7:30 p.m. ET
Location: M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, MD
Preseason Week 1 NFL Odds at BookMaker.eu: Ravens -1.5 (36.5)
Panthers vs. Ravens TV Coverage: Local
The Panthers truly were special last season. They won 15 games and whipped through the NFC portion of the playoffs before getting beaten in the Super Bowl by Denver. The loss to the Broncos definitely exposed some weaknesses which still exist in Cam Newton's game, and that's something he surely will have worked on in the offseason.
Baltimore meanwhile, is coming off of a disastrous 5-11 season in which virtually nothing went right. But the Ravens aren't ever down for all that long, and history suggests that Joe Flacco and company will bounce back this year. If nothing else, Baltimore has to be a healthier team this season than it was last year, as there were just gobs of season-ending injuries suffered from Week 1 through Week 17 last season.
Matchup To Watch
John Harbaugh knows that the Ravens really have to get back to what made them good for so many years. They have no doubt that Justin Forsett will go into this season as the bell cow for this offense, but Buck Allen, Terrance West and rookie Kenneth Dixon are all vying for touches as well.
The reserve offensive linemen were in shambles in the preseason last year for the Ravens, and as a result, this year, Harbaugh is bringing in a whopping six rookies up front to try to make this team, including first round pick Ronnie Stanley who will slot into the starting left tackle spot in all likelihood.
The four main Baltimore backs combined to average exactly 3.0 yards per carry in the preseason last year, and that's why this team was so bad. That problem, of course, poured into the regular season as well when Flacco was forced to put the ball in the air a ton because his rushing attack stunk.
Carolina's starting defensive line is frightening, and adding first round pick Vernon Butler to the mix is only going to help that depth out. Baltimore spent five picks in the first five rounds on the defensive side of the ball, including a pair of corners who are projected to be starters. For sure, the battle between the Baltimore rushing attack and the Carolina front seven will be the story in this one.
Panthers vs. Ravens Free Picks
There are some other factors to remember here as well, not the least of which is the fact that Harbaugh has a history of playing his second-string quarterback a lot longer than most in these early preseason games.
Ryan Mallett, this year's backup to Flacco, is significantly better than Matt Schaub was in the past, and that could really play into the Ravens' hands.
In the end, this is a relatively unpredictable preseason game, and home field advantage is a real thing when it comes to these guys at the back end of the depth chart, even in front of stands which are 20 percent full by the time the fourth quarter rolls around. The Panthers might have finished 15-1 last year, but once Newton comes out of the game and Derek Anderson and Joe Webb come in to do mop-up work, this club won't look anything like the best team in the NFC.
Panthers vs. Ravens Preseason Week 1 ATS Pick: Ravens -1.5 at BookMaker.eu
Panthers vs. Ravens Score Prediction: Ravens 24 – Panthers 13