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Carolina Panthers at Baltimore Ravens 9/28/14 NFL Pick, Odds, Prediction

Carolina Panthers (2-1) at Baltimore Ravens (2-1)

NFL Football: Sunday, September 28, 2014 at 1:00 pm (M&T Bank Stadium)

The Line: Baltimore Ravens -2.5 -- Over/Under: 40 See the Latest Odds

TV: CBS

The Baltimore Ravens host the Carolina Panthers in a battle of top teams from opposite conferences.

The Carolina Panthers enter this game at 2-1 after getting dismantled by the Steelers on Sunday Night Football in week three 37-19.  The Panthers rode a dominant defense to wins over the Buccaneers and Lions in the opening weeks of the season, but the defense was gashed last week allowing 454 total yards.   QB Cam Newton has been reasonably effective in two starts this season completing 67% of his passes for 531 and two TD’s, but his versatility is less than what we’ve come to expect given a recovery from a rib injury.  Making matters worse for the running game are health problems for running backs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart who are both questionable for this contest.   The Panthers receivers aren’t household names with veteran Jericho Cotchery probably playing above his natural level on the depth chart and rookie Kelvin Benjamin looking to become the primary playmaker with a ton of potential.

Carolina Panthers at Baltimore Ravens 9/28/14 NFL Pick, Odds, Prediction

USA TODAY Sports

The Panthers defense is weakened presently by the absence of Greg Hardy at defensive end, but Luke Kuechly is still a tackling machine at the linebacker position with 34 combined tackles to lead the team and the Panthers can also pressure the quarterback with eight sacks on the year.  Carolina has forced six fumbles on the year recovering three of them and has also collected three interceptions.

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The Baltimore Ravens won a nail biter in Cleveland last week, defeating the Browns 23-21 on a Justin Tucker FG as time expired.  The win brought the Ravens to 2-1 on the year after dropping their opener at the Bengals in week one and demolishing the Steelers at home in week two.  QB Joe Flacco has been pretty average for the Ravens thus far completing 61.5% of his passes on the season with four touchdowns and two interceptions.  Hurting Flacco has been a depleted backfield with the absence of running back Ray Rice and injury to Bernard Pierce hampering Flacco’s ability to benefit from the play action pass, although backup RB Lorenzo Taliaferro did perform well in week three with 5.1 yards per carry.   At receiver, former Panther Steve Smith will be the focal point for the Ravens in this matchup as the team’s leading receiver with 18 receptions for 291 yards and a touchdown on the season.   Torrey Smith has started the season slowly with just 85 total yards through three games but you have to figure he has a breakout game at some point given his ability to break away on the deep route. 

The Ravens defense has been good  against the run to open the year ranking 8th in the league while allowing 89.7 yards per game, but the pass defense hasn’t been as sharp ranking 24th while allowing 262.3 yards per game.   The Ravens’ success on the ground could be largely determined by whether or not DeAngelo Williams suits up healthy for this game as reports indicate he will.

With the Panthers defense unraveling in week three I am starting to doubt if they will be the dominant unit we saw last year, so I like the value we’re getting on the over here.  Even though Cam Newton’s mobility is weakened by injury I think the Panthers will find ways to move the ball on the Ravens decent but not great defense as well.

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