Can the Carolina Panthers, fresh off a win and a mini-bye week, pull off the big upset victory over the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday?
If they do, here are four key matchups that’ll play a role in it.
Panthers QB Baker Mayfield vs. Ravens DC Mike Macdonald
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Given Mayfield’s history as the former “franchise quarterback” for the Cleveland Browns, he and the Ravens coaching staff are intimately familiar with one other. This includes Baltimore’s defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald—who served as the team’s linebackers coach between 2018 and 2020.
In their six previous matchups, Mayfield was hot and cold. His all-time stats against Baltimore ended up reflecting his erratic games—with 13 touchdowns, nine interceptions and a 83.2 quarterback rating. He currently sits with a 3-5 record against the Ravens.
If Mayfield can take what has learned from his previous matchups and diagnose what Macdonald is throwing at him, he could be in for a good game that can go a long way into nabbing a win this weekend.
Panthers LB Frankie Luvu vs. Ravens QB Lamar Jackson
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Jackson is one of the most dangerous quarterbacks and weapons in the entirety of the NFL. He leads all quarterbacks in rushing yards over the past five years and is one of the few passers to ever run for 1,000 yards in a season. It goes without saying that his scrambling and rushing prowess, as well as his ability as a thrower, will need to be put in check.
One of the Panthers that can help keep Lamar’s legs contained is Luvu, who is now fully healthy and in the middle of an emergent season with Carolina. He is one of the more athletic linebackers in the league and is excellent at shooting down gaps quickly.
Luvu may be asked to play spy on Jackson, should he ever get out of the pocket. If he can contain the explosive quarterback, it should go a long way in holding the Ravens offense back.
Panthers S Jeremy Chinn vs. Ravens TE Mark Andrews
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The Panthers have been without Chinn for the better part of the last seven games. And if he’s a go on Sunday, he’ll have one hell of a job in keeping the All-Pro Andrews in check.
Andrews has been Jackson’s top weapon over the last few years. He led all tight ends in receiving yards in 2021 (1,361) and looked to be on a similar pace before running into a few injuries this season.
If Chinn is indeed in and can keep the dangerous tight end out of the end zone, it will go a long way in helping this team find a win. If he isn’t in, it could be mostly up to a committee of Luvu, Shaq Thompson and Xavier Woods.
Panthers WR DJ Moore vs. Ravens CB Marlon Humphrey
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While this matchup will be a run-heavy affair, there will be opportunities downfield in the passing game. And both teams will need to rely on their top deep threats to take advantage of those potentially game-altering strikes.
For the Panthers, their biggest weapon is still Moore—who currently leads the team in receiving with 478 yards. He will go up against the All-Pro Humphrey, who is considered one of the best defensive backs in the league over the last few years.
He is a big, physical corner with enough speed to counteract any receiver he tries to get over top of him, and has enough size to box receivers at the line. If the Panthers are to succeed in the passing game, Moore will need to overcome his matchup and find a way to wiggle free against the Raven’s top corner.