Somewhat surprisingly, my first double digit favorite pick of the year comes in week 11. I've had some success picking these before, but I've also had some spectacular failures. But this one just seems too ripe for the picking. The reason that I think the Ravens will cover is simple: the Panthers are sporting one of the most pathetic offenses I've ever seen. To be specific, they are starting a QB this week, named Brian St. Pierre, who was literally a stay-at-home dad at this time last week. He appears to have thrown a total of 5 passes in the last 7 years. And this is a passing attack that was already miserable; they generated a net sum at sixty-eight passing yards in their recent loss to the Saints.
Not only that, but the Panthers' top three running backs are all out this week. In short, they'll be lucky to put up more than 7 points for the game. It is true that the Ravens don't have a great secondary, but the Panthers are so woefully ill-suited to exploit the Ravens' weakness that I expect the Ravens to dominate this game.
Admittedly, the Ravens haven't blown out many teams this year -- in fact, they've won by a double digit margin in only 2 games. But they haven't played anyone as bad as the Panthers -- the team last in the NFL in point-differential and one that specializes in succumbing to the blowout. I think that the Ravens will be motivated coming off a tough road loss to the Falcons, and Ray Rice is chomping at the bit to redeem himself against one of the worst rushing defenses in the league. The Ravens should be able to win this one by 2 TD's at least.
THE COUNTER-ARGUMENT: THIS LOOKS TOO EASY
This just seems like one of those games where there's no way anyone can even envision an argument for how the Panthers can win. And that scares me. In fact, last year one of my lessons learned in the wake of a failed Cardinals pick against the injury-depleted Lions was to shy away from huge favorites against teams missing their starting QB and RB. I'm not heeding my own advice this week, because the Panthers just seem so bad.
It seems like the only way the Panthers can stay in this game is through either some crazy series of special teams successes or creative wacky plays like wildcat formations, surprise flea-flickers, etc. But John Fox -- perhaps the league's most conservative coach -- never tries things like that. Fox's coaching style seems more suited for a solid front-runner like he had earlier this decade, not the young huge underdog that he has now. Without some weird turn of events, I just can't see the Panthers staying in this game. Ravens cover.