Here's how I began our weekly Friday prediction entry as the Ravens were preparing to face the Bills four weeks ago:
"The Bills are 0-5. They've been outscored 161-87 this season. They're coming into Baltimore, where the Ravens don't lose too often. Don't know how many people in their right mind would pick Buffalo to pull off the road upset this weekend."
I then followed that up by saying that crazy things can, and often do, happen in the NFL.
In case you need a reminder (which I'm pretty sure you don't), crazy things did happen that Sunday, as the Ravens needed overtime to eek out a win over Buffalo.
Baltimore was heavily favored that day against a struggling Bills team, and they'll be heavily favored this weekend as they take on a Carolina squad that is currently 1-8.
Here's how the Ravens and Panthers match up statistically so far this season:
Ravens: 344.9 (13th)
Panthers: 250.6 (32nd)
Ravens: 118.4 (11th)
Panthers: 93.8 (24th)
Ravens: 226.4 (17th)
Panthers: 156.8 (32nd)
Ravens: 316.4 (10th)
Panthers: 326.8 (14th)
Ravens: 99.8 (8th)
Panthers: 131.6 (27th)
Ravens: 216.7 (13th)
Panthers: 195.2 (5th)
Ravens: -1 (t-18th)
Panthers: -10 (31st)
The Ravens nearly got burned by Buffalo, but it would really be a shock if they don't take care of business against this Panthers team.
Carolina can't score - they have far and away the NFL's worst scoring offense, averaging just 11.6 points per game - they can't stop the run, and they can't hang onto the football.
As if things weren't bad enough for the Panthers, they'll be without starting quarterback Jimmy Clausen, and will almost certainly be missing their top two running backs in DeAngelo Williams (who was put on IR this week) and Jonathan Stewart (who hasn't practiced this week because of a concussion).
That means that Carolina will turn to journeyman QB Brian St. Pierre, who has only been with the Panthers for nine days, and second-year running back Mike Goodson, who got his first career NFL start last week against Tampa Bay.
You've got to feel for wide receiver Steve Smith, a Pro Bowler who has seen his team fall apart around him the last few years. Smith is still Carolina's top receiving threat, although his numbers are way down from where they were even two years ago.
Defensively, the Panthers are vulnerable against the run but actually are strong in the secondary, led by ballhawking strong safety Charles Godfrey, who has four interceptions on the year, and cornerback Chris Gamble, the former Ohio State star.
The Ravens come into this matchup rested and with a bit of a chip on their shoulder after last Thursday's loss at Atlanta. They'll put their primary focus on stopping Goodson, a 100-yard rusher last week, and will be able to tee off on St. Pierre on passing downs.
I failed miserably by predicting a 31-6 Ravens win when John Harbaugh's team took on the Bills, but I can confidently go with a similar score for this Sunday's matchup against Carolina.
In fact, put me down for the exact same 31-6 score. I see Ray Rice having a big day and the defense getting back on track after getting picked apart last week.
Anyone see this game as Buffalo Part II and think the Ravens will struggle down in Carolina?
If not, how badly do you think Baltimore will roll over the Panthers? Is anyone willing to predict the first Ravens' shutout of the season?
Who you got, and by how much?