Quarterback Baker Mayfield returns to the starting lineup for the Carolina Panthers this Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens because PJ Walker suffered an ankle injury during their last game.
The Panthers won a gritty divisional battle against the Atlanta Falcons on “Thursday Night Football” in Week 10, but Walker twisted his ankle in the fourth quarter and finished the game despite the injury. An MRI revealed a high ankle sprain, so Walker could be sidelined for at least a month.
Interim head coach Steve Wilks will start Mayfield in Week 11 against Lamar Jackson and the Ravens. Sam Darnold will be the backup quarterback behind Mayfield.
A high ankle sprain limits PJ’s mobility,” said Wilks. “We’ll let him sit this week and go with Baker.”
Heading into the preseason, Mayfield and Darnold were vying for the starting quarterback position. Mayfield won the job when Darnold suffered an injury in the preseason.
Darnold and Mayfield were heavily-touted quarterbacks in college, yet had lackluster careers in the NFL. The Cleveland Browns selected Oklahoma’s Mayfield with the #1 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, while the New York Jets picked Darnold out of USC with the third-overall pick.
The Panthers acquired both quarterbacks in trades after their careers sputtered with their initial teams. The Jets traded Darnold to the Panthers in 2021. The Browns traded Mayfield to the Panthers in 2022.
Walker Out, Mayfield In
Mayfield suffered a high ankle sprain in Week 5 and was replaced by Walker in the starting lineup. Even though Mayfield recovered from the injury, he served as the backup behind Walker over the previous four games.
Mayfield struggled to start the season and went 1-4 as a starter with just four touchdowns and four interceptions. Through the first five games of the season, Mayfield posted the lowest QBR rating since ESPN began tracking the stat in 2006.
Mayfield came off the bench in an attempt to spark the stagnant Panthers during a blowout against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 7. Although the Panthers lost 35-17, Mayfield passed for 155 yards and two touchdowns in relief. Despite a strong performance by Mayfield, Walker retained his starting position in Week 8 with Mayfield continuing as the backup.
Walker is 2-3 as the starting quarterback of the Panthers this season. He completed 59.4% of his passes for 731 yards and three touchdowns. He also tossed three interceptions and was sacked seven times.
(Avoid) Betting the Panthers
The Panthers fired head coach Matt Rhule after a 1-4 start in his third season with the team. Rhule ended his horrendous tenure with an 11-27 record.
The Panthers are 2-3 since they fired Rhule and look like they’re punting on this season. A couple of weeks prior to the trade deadline, the front office traded All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey to the San Francisco 49ers for multiple draft picks.
The Panthers are 4-6 against the spread this season, but 3-1 ATS in their last four games. The under points total is 6-4 this season for the offensively-challenged Panthers who average only 20.4 points per game.
The Panthers are -13 underdogs in a non-conference game against the Baltimore Ravens (6-3) on Sunday. The Ravens are only 4-4-1 against the spread this season. The Ravens are 0-3 ATS as a home favorite this season while the Panthers are 1-2 ATS as a road dog.
The Panthers are at the bottom of DraftKing’s NFL futures board at +50000 odds to win Super Bowl LVII. The Panthers are also a long shot at +2800 odds to win the NFC South. Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the consensus betting favorite to win another NFC South divisional title at -450 odds. The Atlanta Falcons are the Bucs’ closest competition at +550 odds.
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