Carolina vs Baltimore Preseason Week 1 Expert Pick & Odds
The last time the Carolina Panthers took the field for an NFL game was just over six months ago when the Panthers had a chance to stamp themselves as one of the best single-season teams in NFL history with a win over Denver in the Super Bowl. But the Broncos pulled the upset. The Panthers start a possible trek back to the first title in franchise history in their preseason opener in Baltimore on Thursday. The Ravens are slight favorites in online NFL betting.
How To Bet Panthers on Carolina vs Baltimore Preseason Week 1 Expert Pick, Odds & TV Info
LFW: Will Flacco play in the preseason opener?
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) August 9, 2016
Why Bet on Carolina?
The Panthers are 41-44 in preseason games. Carolina finished at least .500 in the preseason in each of its seven playoff seasons, including a 3-1 mark last year. Fresh off a 15-1 season and Super Bowl 50 appearance, the Panthers visit Charm City for the second time in three years. The last game was a 38-10 regular-season win by the Ravens in a 2014 Week 4 matchup.
Don’t expect to see reigning NFL MVP Cam Newton play much if at all. The Panthers are focusing on backup quarterbacks Derek Anderson and Joe Webb, who are expected to get most of the work in Thursday’s preseason opener. Otherwise it will be young guys getting most of the work. Overall, Coach Ron Rivera has been pleased with how the rookie class has performed so far at training camp, but he's seen some slippage as the “dog days” drag on. “They’re making a lot of mistakes out there,” Rivera said. “They’re messing up their alignments, messing up their assignments, and we can’t have that. It’s too inconsistent right now.”
Panthers rookie CBs Daryl Worley and James Bradberry have been running as the starters even following Bene Benwikere’s (leg) return. Benwikere, presumed to be the Panthers’ No. 1 corner, has been working in the slot.
Rivera has a decision to make at receiver. Kelvin Benjamin, Ted Ginn, Devin Funchess and Philly Brown are locks to make the team, with Brenton Bersin, Kevin Norwood, Damiere Byrd and Stephen Hill battling for the final spot or two.
Why Bet on Baltimore?
In 2015, the Ravens finished third in the AFC North after posting a 5-11 record (Cincinnati won the division, and Pittsburgh was a Wild Card playoff entrant). It marked just the second time the Ravens did not make the playoffs during Coach Jim Harbaugh’s eight seasons at the helm.
This marks the Ravens’ seventh preseason game against the Panthers in a series Baltimore leads, 4-2. The Ravens are 47-32 all time in preseason play. Under Harbaugh, Baltimore has compiled a 20-12 record during the preseason.
The Ravens are going to be without many of their best players who were hurt last season. The goal is still in sight for linebackers Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil and wide receivers Steve Smith Sr. (the greatest receiver in Panthers history) and Breshad Perriman. Harbaugh said all four players are still expected to be ready for the regular-season opener against the Buffalo Bills on Sept. 11. Harbaugh wants to get the team’s young players a lot of action and he generally doesn’t play his veterans a ton in the preseason. So Smith Sr. and Dumervil likely wouldn’t see a lot of action even if they weren’t coming off injuries. Perriman, on the other hand, needs the reps after missing all of last year.
It doesn’t appear that Joe Flacco will play, either. Flacco has proved he’s healthy enough to play just nine months removed from tearing the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee. He has not missed a training camp practice and has shown no setbacks in his recovery from knee surgery. But if Flacco doesn’t play Thursday night against the Panthers, there is still plenty of time for him to get preseason reps.
“We will be common-sensical about it,” Harbaugh said after Tuesday’s practice. “We do want to see our young players play. The only reason I say anything about Joe is I think everyone can figure out what’s going to happen.”Harbaugh said he prefers not to address Flacco specifically because he doesn’t want to get into a “laundry list” of who’s playing and who’s not.
Meanwhile, starting left tackle Ronnie Stanley, the team’s first-round pick. may not play Thursday, even though he returned to practice Tuesday after suffering a soft tissue injury. That means 14 players for the Ravens, including Flacco, might not suit up Thursday: tight ends Dennis Pitta (finger), Crockett Gillmore (hamstring) and Maxx Williams (undisclosed); wide receivers Michael Campanaro (undisclosed), Chris Matthews (undisclosed) and Chris Moore (lower left leg); defensive end Bronson Kaufusi (broken ankle); Stanley; and five players on the physically unable to perform list (Suggs, Smith, Dumervil, Perriman and Lorenzo Taliaferro).
My Expert Pick
The Ravens are 25-15 all time in preseason home games, producing wins in 11 of their last 14 contests in Baltimore. But I like the Panthers on NFL odds with how many key Ravens will be sitting out.