Denver Broncos cornerback Chris Harris (25) forces Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) to run out of the pocket during the third quarter Sunday, November 12, 2012 at Bank of America Stadium. John Leyba, The Denver Post
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Panthers, Ravens face critical game on Sunday

The Baltimore Ravens and Carolina Panthers are both fighting to stay in their respective divisional races. As well as that, they’re hoping to make a move in the playoff picture.

For Baltimore, the next step is going into Carolina and beating the Panthers. They must do this after a potentially soul-crushing loss to the New Orleans Saints last weekend. The Ravens hadn’t allowed a second-half touchdown all season prior to Sunday. Then, they surrendered 17 points in the fourth quarter to fall behind 24-17 in the final seconds. Then, incredibly, the Ravens scored a touchdown, only to see Justin Tucker miss his first extra point since high school.


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On the other side, the Panthers are coming into the contest with emotions from a comeback win for the ages. Carolina was in Philadelphia trailing the Eagles 17-0 in the fourth quarter before Cam Newton started a rally. The Panthers scored first on a Curtis Samuel run before Newton threw touchdown passes to Devin Funchess and Greg Olsen in the waning minutes, putting the crowd at Lincoln Financial Field into a state of shock.

With all that said, the Ravens are 4-3 and trailing the Pittsburgh Steelers by mere percentage points in the AFC North, while the Panthers are 4-2 and game behind the aforementioned Saints in the NFC South.

Despite having a better record and being at home for the tilt, Carolina is actually a two-point underdog to Baltimore. The Ravens might be getting some love from Vegas because it has beaten Pittsburgh and has the top-ranked defense in the NFL, along with notching the most sacks (27) and permitting the few points per game (14.4).


Read: Trade Rumors – Demaryius Thomas Leaving Denver?


Carolina is also a good defensive unit, but it doesn’t match up to the Ravens. The Panthers come in 13th in yardage allowed and 10th in points, although it could be argued that they have played the harder of the schedules between these teams.

Ultimately, whoever wins this game on Sunday at Bank of America Stadium will be feeling very good about their playoff chances. If it’s Baltimore, the Ravens would move to 5-3 at the midway point of their season with a looming date against the Steelers in Charm City the following week for the division lead. Conversely, the Panthers would get to 5-2 with a win and considering the Saints are on the road this weekend against the Minnesota Vikings, could find themselves tied atop the division.

With November looming after this upcoming slate of games, the contenders begin to heat up as the weather cools off considerably. For Baltimore and Carolina, this game presents an opportunity to prove it is a real threat as we head toward the second half of the schedule.

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