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Ravens defense desperate for answers after ugly loss and divisional matchups ahead

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Ravens defense desperate for answers after ugly loss and divisional matchups ahead

The Baltimore Ravens entered their Week 8 matchup vs. the Carolina Panthers as the No. 1 scoring and No. 1 overall yards-per-game defense in the league. 

Despite giving up their first second-half touchdown of the season and 17 points in the fourth quarter alone against Drew Brees and the Saints in Week 7, the defense was still looked at as the biggest threat in the league.

But what transpired during their 36-21 loss to the Panther's Sunday has fans, and the players themselves, questioning what's going on with a team that started their season 3-1.

Veteran Safety Eric Weddle recognizes the issue. "I don’t like to say, ‘We’re alright.' We’re not alright. We just got blasted," the five-time Pro Bowler said after the game.  "We’re 4-4 — an average team. We just got blown out. I wouldn’t say it’s rock bottom, but we have to look at ourselves and get back to work."

Quarterback Cam Newton had more than enough time to throw the ball, finishing the day 21-of-29 for 219 yards for two touchdowns. The former NFL MVP also added 52 rushing yards and one rushing touchdown. Newton found seven different receivers along the way, was sacked zero times and didn't throw a single interception. 

On top of making Newton's job easy, the defense looked confused at times and couldn't get out of their own way, logging several unnecessary penalties. In the first half alone with the score 21-7, the defense had given up more points then their season average of 14.4 points-per-game.

More from Weddle:

For us defensively, they present a lot of misdirection and formations, different plays and was tough to get in a rhythm with them and Cam played an outstanding game. Hit some big throws, extending some plays and I’m sure, as a team you can’t turn the ball over, those types of things to get back in the game.

Now the Ravens head back to M&T Bank Stadium to host the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals in what are quite literally must-win games as the team finds itself staring up at the two in the AFC North rankings.

Quarterback Joe Flacco knows the road ahead won't be an easy one.

I think we are going to feel like that at every single game out. We are obviously not in the most ideal situation possible but we still have eight games left. I feel like we have the opportunity to play really good football.

We just have to make sure to keep the focus on that. I think there is obviously a bigger threat now to let this stuff affect you mentally, let it affect the team and how we are gelling together. So we just have to combat that just by being ourselves and being as tough as we possibly can and go out there and take each game one game at a time and play football like we know how to.

Two losses could spell another missed postseason and many questions facing the organization with a quarter left to go in the season.

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Ravens vs. Panthers Week 8: Date, time, TV channel, live stream, how to watch

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Ravens vs. Panthers Week 8: Date, time, TV channel, live stream, how to watch

The Baltimore Ravens experienced one of their most stunning losses against the New Orleans Saints in Week 7, while the Carolina Panthers mounted the largest fourth quarter comeback in franchise history against the Philadelphia Eagles.

But now as we look ahead to Week 8, we know consistency week to week in the NFL is a rarity. 

The Ravens (4-3) have won two straight matchups vs. Carolina, but the Panthers (4-2) hold the all-time series lead at 3-2. The last time these two met was back in 2014 when the Ravens came away with a 38-10 victory.

Here's what you need to know as Joe Flacco and co. head to Bank of America Stadium to take on the Carolina Panthers in an AFC-NFC matchup.

Ravens vs. Panthers Week 8 Game Preview:

1. Carolina historically successful in close games

If the Ravens want to come away with the win Sunday, their No. 1 scoring and No. 1 overall yards-per-game defense is going to have to continue its reign. The Panthers have won four of their six games in 2018 by seven points or less with the other two being decided by eight and ten points. Since 2013, 22 of their games have been decided by three points or less, ranking 10th in the NFL in that span of time. They've also won 13 three-point games since 2013, tying for second-most in the NFL. But it doesn't stop there. Since 2013, the Panthers have won 26 games by seven points or fewer which is tied for the most in the NFL. In 2018 alone, they rank second in the NFL in points scored in the fourth quarter.

What we're trying to get at here is that Carolina is among the best in the league at close games while the Ravens are the exact opposite.

Since the start of the 2017 season, the Ravens are 0-6 in games decided by six points or less with the last victory by more than a touchdown occurring Dec. 18 2016 vs. the Eagles. Under John Harbaugh, the Ravens are 32-42 in games decided by less than a touchdown and Joe Flacco hasn't thrown a winning touchdown pass in the final two minutes since December 2013 against the Vikings. 

The odds are not stacked in their favor, and after giving up their first second-half touchdown of the season on Sunday, the Ravens will be in trouble if they allow this one to get close.

2. Cam Newton a threat all over the field

When a defense is facing a quarterback like Newton, they have to be ready for just about everything. 

The 29-year-old is a threat in the air and on the ground as he is the only player to lead a current NFL franchise in both career touchdown passes (169) and career rushing touchdowns (57). He's also the first quarterback in NFL history with at least 50 rushing touchdowns and has 38 career games with both a passing and rushing touchdown, the most in NFL history. 

Described by safety Eric Weddle as a "fast dinosaur," through six games Newton is 137-of -209 for 1,427 yards, 11 touchdowns and four interceptions. In their come-from-behind win against the Eagles Week 7, the QB threw for 201 yards and was 16-of-22 passing for two touchdowns in the fourth quarter alone (see point #1) earning him NFC Offensive Player of the Week. Compared to the rankings of other teams in the league, the Panthers offense is pretty mediocre. But when you've got a guy like Newton who can, and will take matters into his own hands, you better not underestimate what they're capable of. 

Ravens vs. Panthers Week 8 Injury Report:

Cam Newton (right shoulder), Greg Olsen (foot) and former Raven Torrey Smith (knee) are notable names listed on the team's injury report this week. On the Ravens side of the ball, Marlon Humphrey (thigh) and James Hurst (back) did not participate in Wednesday's and Thursday's practices. Of note, guard Alex Lewis (neck) returned to practice this week but was limited after being stretchered off the field Week 6 against the Titans.

Click here to see the latest Ravens-Panthers injury report.

Ravens vs. Panthers Week 8 How to Watch:

Who: Baltimore Ravens vs. Carolina Panthers

What: Week 8 regular season

When: Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018, 1:00 p.m. ET

Where: Bank of America Stadium

TV Channel: CBS

Live Stream: Watch Now with fuboTV - Try free trial

Radio: WBAL New Radio 1090 and 98Rock

Weather: 67 degrees, sunny

Ravens 2018 Regular Season Schedule:

Week 1: Sun., 9/9. Ravens vs. Bills. Win, 47-3 (1-0)

Week 2: Thur., 9/13 Ravens at Bengals. Loss, 34-23 (1-1)

Week 3: Sun., 9/23 Ravens vs. Broncos. Win, 27-14 (2-1)

Week 4: Sun., 9/30 Ravens at Steelers. Win, 26-14 (3-1)

Week 5: Sun., 10/7 Ravens at Browns. Loss, 12-9 (3-2)

Week 6: Sun., 10/14 Ravens at Titans. Win, 21-0 (4-2)

Week 7: Sun., 10/21 vs. Saints, 4:05 p.m. Loss, 24-23 (4-3)

Week 8: Sun., 10/28 @ Panthers, 1:00 p.m.

Week 9: Sun., 11/4 vs. Steelers, 1:00 p.m.

Week 10:  BYE week

Week 11: Sun., 11/18 vs. Bengals, 1:00 p.m.

Week 12: Sun., 11/25 vs. Raiders, 1:00 p.m.

Week 13: Sun., 12/2 @ Falcons, 1:00 p.m.

Week 14: Sun., 12/9 @ Chiefs, 1:00 p.m.

Week 15: Sun., 12/16 vs. Buccaneers, 1:00 p.m.

Week 16: Sat., 12/22 @ Chargers, 8:20 p.m. ET

Week 17: Sun., 12/30 vs. Browns, 1:00 p.m.

Howard's Caylin Newton, Cam's younger brother, is carving out his own legacy on the gridiron

Howard's Caylin Newton, Cam's younger brother, is carving out his own legacy on the gridiron

In the heart of our nation's capital sits the renowned, private and historically black Howard University. 

Leading the school's football team inside William H. Greene Stadium is a familiar name in the sport of football. 

Caylin Newton, younger brother of Carolina Panthers star Cam Newton, is a sophomore stud quarterback for the Bison and has wasted no time bursting onto the scene. 

In September 2017, during his first week as a college football player, Newton led Howard to a historic win, defeating 45-point favorite UNLV, 43-40. This marked the biggest point-spread upset in the history of college football. 

Talk about putting yourself on the map as a true freshman. 

Newton was responsible for 330 total yards and three touchdowns. Like his older brother, he's a dual threat who likes to leave the pocket. 

Head coach Mike London describes his quarterback as a "selfless leader who wants the team to win," and has given the 19-year-old the keys to his Bison offense under center. 

The 2015 NFL MVP's presence and success have obviously followed his younger brother, but haven't hindered him. 

"Cam has said on multiple occasions that he wants his brother to be his own man, to forge his own identity. He does a great job allowing Caylin to be Caylin and get the accolades that he deserves. And Caylin does the same thing," London said. 

Jackie and Cecil Newton Sr. raised three boys in a football family. Sr.'s closest shot at a NFL roster came in 1983 and 1984 when he was cut as a safety from the pre-season rosters of Dallas and Buffalo respectively. The oldest, Cecil Newton Jr., had brief stints with several teams in the NFL but ultimately never found a home. He last played for the Baltimore Ravens' practice squad in 2011. 

10 years separate Cam and Caylin, but that hasn't stopped younger brother from looking up to older brother. 

"It's been amazing. To see his work ethic to how much time he puts in...all I have to do is watch him. It's almost like a blueprint," Caylin Newton said. "That's what I try to mold my game after, as far as mentally and physically."  

The 5-11, 195-pound QB is as mild-mannered as it comes, at least away from the football field. Much like older bro, he has a way with words. 

"My personality is cool, calm and collected. I try not to get too hot or too low, regardless of what's going on in my life. I try to give people this image of me as a man of god, a person who's trying to do everything the right way,” Newton said. 

With Cam and his Carolina Panthers coming to town Sunday to play the Redskins at FedEx Field, Caylin commented on how he sees things shaking out on the gridiron. 

"I expect a win, by any means necessary. I know he's gonna pull it out and I can't wait to celebrate with him after the game, Newton said. 

Loyalty at its finest. 

The Redskins square off against the Panthers at 1 p.m. Sunday. Tune in to Redskins Kickoff Live at noon on NBC Sports Washington.