Tue, 29 Nov 2022

Five things to watch at Baltimore: Panthers seeking first road win

Carolina Panthers
20 Nov 2022, 04:44 GMT+10

Augusta Stone

CHARLOTTE - The Panthers got a mini-bye last week after their Thursday Night Football win over Atlanta, and now they're back on the road.

Carolina (3-7) takes on Baltimore (6-3) in a 1 p.m. kickoff at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday.

The Panthers haven't won an away game or defeated an opponent outside their division this season, and they'll have their hands full in Baltimore. The Ravens, first in the AFC North, are coming off their bye week and carry a three-game win streak into their matchup with Carolina, recently beating Cleveland, Tampa Bay, and New Orleans.

Here are five things to watch in Week 11:

Week 11 Friday Injury Report: Matt Ioannidis out for BaltimorePanthers Huddle: Week 11Panthers-Ravens preview on Good Morning FootballWeek 11 Game Preview: Panthers at RavensSteve Wilks gives update on Jeremy ChinnLocker Room Sound: Brian Burns talks containing Lamar JacksonBaker Mayfield has one goal in second stint: 'Win'Sam Franklin becoming 'unheralded hero' of special teamsJeremy Chinn's status 'a work in progress'FACING LAMAR JACKSON, STRONG RUSH GAME

The Panthers' defense has a versatile quarterback to contend with in Baltimore, as Lamar Jackson can muster big plays with his legs as much as he can through the air.

This season, Jackson's 635 rush yards rank second among NFL quarterbacks behind Chicago's Justin Fields. Jackson has averaged 7.4 yards per carry in 2022, the best among 57 players in the league with more than 50 carries, and Carolina's leaders on the defense know how fast he can go.

"I'm fast, but s-, have you seen him?" defensive end Brian Burns said with a laugh. "He's fast."

While Atlanta's Marcus Mariota isn't as effective as Jackson, the Panthers were able to get to Mariota, a scrambling quarterback, in their win last week. Carolina is coming off a season-high five-sack game, including back-to-back sacks from Marquis Haynes Sr. to finish the night.

Jackson will also be without leading wideout Rashod Bateman, who underwent season-ending foot surgery. Without Bateman on the field, Jackson's passer rating dropped to 81.9 from 111.5, per NFL Next Gen Stats.

Jackson primarily targets his tight ends anyway, with Mark Andrews leading the way with 488 receiving yards on 42 receptions. Andrews didn't play in Week 9 against the Saints while dealing with knee and shoulder injuries. He is questionable for the Carolina game after being a limited practice participant this week.

Jackson didn't practice Friday in Baltimore as he dealt with an illness. While he's officially listed as questionable, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said Jackson would "be fine for Sunday" in post-practice comments. Tyler Huntley would be the next man up if Jackson couldn't go.

BAKER BACK UNDER CENTER IN AN ALTERED OFFENSE

Baker Mayfield got another shot to start at quarterback for the Panthers following PJ Walker's high ankle sprain, and he'll inherit a new-look offense since the last time he started in Week 5 against the 49ers.

Since Mayfield's last start, the Panthers traded running back Christian McCaffrey and wide receiver Robbie Anderson, switched from Matt Rhule to interim coach Steve Wilks, transitioned from Pat Elflein to Bradley Bozeman at center, and established an identity as a stronger team up front.

Mayfield got off to a rough start in his first five games, completing 84-of-153 passes for 962 yards, four touchdowns, and four interceptions before Walker took over after Mayfield's high ankle sprain in Week 5.

Mayfield eventually assumed backup duties to Walker starting in Week 8 and came in for the second half of a blowout loss to Cincinnati. He looked better against the Bengals, throwing for 155 yards and two touchdowns on 14-of-20 passing with no interceptions, but that was long after the game had gotten away from Carolina.

Sam Darnold will be on backup duty at Baltimore after making his return from injured reserve due to a preseason high ankle sprain. He hasn't played in a regular season game since last year.

MONITORING THE RUN GAME IN CHILLY WEATHER

Offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo said lower temperatures give a chance to "pound the ball," and it's setting up to be a cold one in Baltimore.

With high temperatures expected to reach the mid-to-high 30s, McAdoo and Wilks are likely to continue to lean on the Panthers' run game.

Headed up by running back D'Onta Foreman, who has totaled three 100-plus rush-yard performances in his last four games, Carolina has found a way to run the ball effectively since the McCaffrey trade.

The Panthers have improved from 90.3 rush yards per game to 159.5 since trading McCaffrey to San Francisco, but they'll be facing a top-three run defense in Baltimore. The Ravens haven't allowed a single player to rush for more than 100 yards this season, one of only four teams to do so.

The Ravens also lean on the run offensively, ranked second in the league with 168.1 rush yards per game. Baltimore has rushed for more than 150 yards in eight consecutive games, with running backs Kenyan Drake and Gus Edwards playing prominent roles on the ground in addition to Jackson.

Edwards, dealing with a hamstring injury, missed the Ravens' last game against New Orleans but was a limited participant in practice this week and is listed as questionable for Sunday.

PROTECTING THE FOOTBALL

The Ravens have the third-best turnover differential in the league. They're at plus-7 through their first nine games, totaling nine interceptions and seven fumble recoveries on the year.

Safety Marcus Williams, who caught three picks and recovered a fumble this season, won't play against Carolina while he remains on injured reserve with a dislocated wrist. But cornerback Marlon Humphrey, with two interceptions and a fumble recovery, is still a threat on a turnover-savvy defense.

Mayfield, who played four seasons with the AFC North's Browns before coming to Carolina, has thrown nine interceptions in eight career starts against Baltimore. He has thrown at least one interception in seven of those eight starts. This season, he has been picked four times across his starts in the Panthers' first five games.

DEFENSIVE HEALTH

Wilks said Friday that safety Jeremy Chinn would be a game-time decision as he recovers from a hamstring injury. He hasn't played since Week 4 but has practiced while designated to return from injured reserve.

Having Chinn back would help as the Panthers deal with a bevy of injuries in the secondary. Versatile defensive back Myles Hartsfield, who has primarily stepped in since Chinn fell injured, is doubtful to play in Baltimore as he hasn't practiced with an ankle injury all week. Safety Juston Burris is out with a concussion, leaving veteran Xavier Woods as the only sure starter at safety. Sam Franklin Jr., typically a special teams contributor, is prepared to step in for the injured group, Wilks said.

Starting cornerback Donte Jackson was placed on IR with an Achilles injury that ended his season after the Atlanta game, and fellow starter Jaycee Horn is questionable with a foot injury but Wilks was optimistic about his chances. CJ Henderson, Keith Taylor Jr., and Tae Hayes are options at corner should Horn be limited.

Starting defensive tackle Matt Ioannidis won't play against the Ravens as he deals with a calf injury. Daviyon Nixon and rookie Marquan McCall are expected to get some more time up front in his absence, despite both of them missing some practice this week with illness.

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