SUNDAY’S GAME: Ravens at Panthers, Bank of America Stadium, 1 p.m.

THE SERIES: The Panthers beat the Ravens in their only regular-season visit to Baltimore, 23-21, in 2006, and swept two previous games in Carolina. That means the Ravens have never beaten the Panthers when it counts, although they have won four of five preseason games.

PANTHERS THIS SEASON: At 1-8, the Panthers are having their worst season since they went 1-15 in 2001, and prospects don't look good for a second win this year. They have all the earmarks of a team in chaos: a lame-duck coach in John Fox, no proven quarterback, too many turnovers, a worn-out defense and a lot of injuries. Fox, in his ninth year in Carolina, was refused a contract extension by team owner Jerry Richardson in the offseason, and his situation has only gotten worse. Richardson should've fired Fox then, but elected to have him fulfill his contract. The Panthers are five games out of third place in the NFC South, and are in contention with the Bills for the first pick in the 2011 draft. Richardson's frugality has sent the franchise into a serious tailspin.


PANTHERS OFFENSE: When the Panthers released veteran Jake Delhomme last offseason, they had no quarterback ready to step in. They passed up the available free agents and went with Matt Moore and second-round pick Jimmy Clausen. Neither could get the job done. Moore threw 10 interceptions before going on injured reserve with a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder. Clausen became the starter for the second time this season at that point, and he has yet to win a game. He looks overmatched, completing 48.6 percent of his passes for one touchdown and four interceptions. He is the lowest-rated passer among all league qualifiers at 53.8. Worse yet, Clausen is suffering post-concussion symptoms after a 31-16 loss to the Bucs and is day-to-day. If he can't play, rookie Tony Pike, who's thrown 12 passes this season, will start against the Ravens. The team also has career practice-teamer Brian St. Pierre, 30, whom they signed last week, and former Appalachian State quarterback Armanti Edwards, who was drafted as a receiver, as potential options.

The inadequacy at quarterback shows in the team's offensive production. The Panthers have scored just nine touchdowns so far, are last in the league in total offense, pass offense and scoring, and are 29th in third-down conversions. In Sunday's loss at Tampa, the Panthers were without the services of their top three running backs – DeAngelo Williams (foot), Jonathan Stewart (concussion) and Tyrell Sutton (ankle). Their fourth tailback, Mike Goodson, rushed for 100 yards in Tampa. They finished Sunday's game with only six healthy offensive linemen and may have to go to the free agent market to get through this week. They have given up 27 sacks in nine games.

PANTHERS DEFENSE: Carolina's defense was the team's saving grace through the first half of the season. It allowed 301.7 yards per game through seven games, but has been gouged for back-to-back 400 yard games, including a season-high 421 by the Bucs. Defensive end Charles Johnson leads the team with 3.5 sacks, and strong safety Charles Godfrey has a team-high 4 interceptions. Carolina's cornerbacks are veterans Chris Gamble and Richard Marshall (two picks).

The Panthers ranked 14th in total defense in the NFL, and are fifth against the pass. But they are 27th against the rush (131.6 yards per game) and 25th in scoring defense (23.9 points).

PANTHERS SPECIAL TEAMS: John Kasay, 41, is in his 20th NFL season and no longer handles kickoffs. He is a solid 13-for-15 in field goals, though, including 5 of 6 from 50 yards or longer. Goodson is the regular kicker returner (22.9 yards per return) and Captain Munnerly (10.4) the punt returner.

WHAT IT MEANS: This inter-conference matchup comes 10 days after the Ravens' loss in Atlanta, allowing time for injuries to heal. The test will be whether the Ravens allow the Panthers to stay in the game beyond halftime, or show the ability to put Carolina away quickly. It is almost inconceivable that the Panthers can get to the end zone with their problems on offense, but turnovers could give them a shot. This two-week run of NFC South opponents (the Bucs are next) is mindful of last December's blowout wins over Detroit and Chicago.

Clicking on Green Links will take you to a third-party e-commerce site. These sites are not operated by The Baltimore Sun. The Sun Editorial staff is not involved in any way with Green Links or with these third-party sites.