Panthers - Ravens Thursday Night Preview

PANTHERS/RAVENS KICK OFF DRESS REHEARSAL WEEKEND ON ESPN

It's been a fun few weeks of tune-ups. Football fans and Las Vegas bettors are now about to see peak intensity for at least a half from almost all 32 NFL teams during what's become the annual dress rehearsal weekend.

That starts tonight with a national TV game featuring the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens and the potentially up-and-coming Carolina Panthers. This weekend we'll be gathering up the key numbers from our summer previews to help you handicap all the TV matchups. If you missed those reports earlier in August, please check the archives. As the numbers relate specifically to Carolina and Baltimore...READ ON!

Standings/Turnovers/Schedule
Carolina: 7-9, +1 turnover, #14 ranked schedule
Baltimore: 10-6, +9 turnovers, #13 ranked schedule

Even though NFC teams generally played much tougher schedules than AFC teams last year, the Panthers and Ravens faced almost dead even schedules. That will give us a great sense of best expectations for tonight because both teams still have the same head coaches and quarterbacks. Baltimore was a few games better in the standings. That was helped by turnover differential, and probably late game experience from Joe Flacco. Cam Newton of Carolina is still learning how to win. You'll see below that very little differentiated these teams aside from the ability to maximize scoring from production when it mattered most.

Yards-Per Play
Carolina: 5.8 on offense, 5.3 on defense
Baltimore: 5.4 on offense, 5.2 on defense

Carolina was actually better in yards-per-play differential despite playing a very similar schedule strength! The Panthers must figure out how to turn those yards into more TD's. And, of course, improving their turnover differential from break-even would put them in the thick of the NFC playoff picture as well. By the way...if you study a lot of stats beyond our key indicators today...you're going to get Carolina as being very similar to Baltimore last year during the regular season. That suggests the Panthers could be a real sleeper this year. But, it's also important to remember that Baltimore kicked things up a notch in January. They weren't playing at a championship level until it was time to play for a championship.

Third Down Conversions
Carolina: 43% on offense, 36% on defense
Baltimore: 37% on offense, 36% on defense

Carolina was actually BETTER in one of our favorite stats than Baltimore was, and by quite a good bit. Baltimore tended to emphasize big plays rather than moving the chains. Flacco has a big arm, and can go deep for TD's. He needs to improve his chain management skills before being considered a truly elite quarterback though. Cam Newton deserves a lot of credit for reaching 43% at such a young age. Now he must finish off drives.

Baltimore is a 3-point favorite in this game, with an Over/Under of 42 points. Home field advantages is typically worth about 2 or 2.5 points in the dress rehearsals...so the market is telling you the Ravens are slightly superior on a neutral field. Keep that in mind once the regular season starts. Carolina is going to be getting some market respect, while the sharps are concerned a bit about offseason talent losses for the Ravens.

JIM HURLEY knows you want to start off dress rehearsal weekend with a BIG, JUICY WINNER. He'll choose the best option between this game and New England/Detroit to get you rolling in the right direction. Purchase that play right here on the website with your credit card. Or, call us directly in the office during regular business hours at 1-800-323-4453. This is a great time to take advantage of our early bird seasonal rates.

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Back with you tomorrow to run our indicator stats in the Seattle/Green Bay game that will be nationally televised by CBS. Visit us every day in the NOTEBOOK for great handicapping information. And, link up with JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK to GET THE MONEY from Las Vegas sportsbooks!

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Nov

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