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Ravens-Panthers: Five predictions for Sunday

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Luke Jones
Luke Jones
Luke Jones is the Ravens and Orioles beat reporter for WNST BaltimorePositive.com and is a PFWA member. His mind is consumed with useless sports knowledge, pro wrestler promos, and movie quotes, but he struggles to remember where he put his phone. Luke's favorite sports memories include being one of the thousands of kids who waited to get Cal Ripken's autograph after Orioles games in the summer of 1995, attending the Super Bowl XXXV victory parade with his father in the pouring rain, and watching the Terps advance to the Final Four at the Carrier Dome in 2002. Follow him on Twitter @BaltimoreLuke or email him at Luke@wnst.net.

Sunday marks just the second time in 24 days that the Ravens will have played a game when they host 3-7 Carolina. 

In first place in the AFC North and just one game behind Kansas City for the top spot in the conference, Baltimore won’t play an opponent currently holding a winning record until Week 18. In other words, John Harbaugh’s team has quite the opportunity to stack victories and improve its playoff positioning over the next several weeks. 

It’s time to go on the record as the Ravens and Panthers meet for the seventh time in their regular-season history with Carolina holding a 4-2 advantage and winning the last meeting between these teams, a 36-21 final in Charlotte in 2018. 

Below are five predictions for Sunday:

1. Baltimore will return a Baker Mayfield interception for a touchdown. Despite ranking third in the NFL in takeaways, the Ravens have yet to score a defensive touchdown this season. Meanwhile, Mayfield is making his first start since Week 5 and should be feeling major urgency to show he can still be a starter in this league after a brutal start to his 2022 campaign. That sounds like a recipe for a quarterback trying to do too much and making some ill-advised throws against an improving defense hungry to take one the other way. 

2. Lamar Jackson will run for a touchdown for the first time since Week 3. Though Chicago’s Justin Fields has been making the running quarterback headlines in recent weeks, Jackson is averaging a career-high 7.4 yards per carry and remains on pace for the third 1,000-yard rushing season of his career. Considering Jackson missed Friday’s practice due to illness and some of his pass catchers are still banged up coming out of the bye week, you’d expect the Ravens to lean on the ground game against a Panthers defense that’s given up 546 rushing yards over its last three games.

3. James Proche will catch a touchdown and set season highs in receptions and receiving yards. It remains to be seen how the Baltimore passing game evolves over the second half of the season, but it was interesting to hear Greg Roman go out of his way this week to mention Proche stepping up and earning more playing time. After making five receptions for 46 yards over the last two games, the 2020 sixth-round pick from SMU will be going up against a struggling secondary dealing with injuries. With Rashod Bateman out for the year and DeSean Jackson dealing with a hamstring injury, there’s no shortage of opportunities for the young wide receivers to step up. 

4. D’Onta Foreman will find the end zone for Carolina. The 2017 third-round pick has been a bright spot for a struggling team with three 100-yard rushing performances in four games since the Panthers traded star running back Christian McCaffrey to San Francisco. However, the Ravens have really tightened up their run defense in recent weeks and haven’t allowed a single player to rush for 100 yards in a game in over a year now. That streak will continue, but Foreman should find a little more running room for a touchdown later in the game with Baltimore protecting against the big play with a multi-score lead.

5. The Ravens will eclipse 200 rushing yards in a 31-13 win. It’s uncertain whether Gus Edwards will play or how much he’ll be involved if he does, but that shouldn’t matter for an offense that’s averaged 4.7 yards per carry or better in seven of its last eight games. Carolina does have some talented players capable of hurting you on either side of the ball, but poor quarterback play has really cost the Panthers throughout the season. Even if Mayfield plays better than the guy ranking last in ESPN’s QBR and 37th out of 39 qualified quarterbacks in Pro Football Focus grading this season, it won’t be enough in a matchup that shouldn’t be all that close. A double-digit favorite at home and 11-3 in games immediately following a bye in the Harbaugh era, the surging Ravens would really need to self-destruct to lose this game. 

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