The Ravens, entering the eighth week of the season, are at a juncture. Baltimore, although frequently listed as a top ten team in the National Football League, has only won four games, and lost three. The team is gearing up for the crucial second half of the season and is in no position to fall to an even win to loss ratio. The Ravens will not have an easy time against the Panthers. Despite troubles, Carolina has managed to win close games. The Panthers are led by the prolific quarterback, Cam Newton, who is equally a threat on the ground as he is a passer. The Ravens will need to figure out a way stop Newton, and score points on offense. To do this, there are three key battles that the Ravens must win.
Front Seven Must Bottle Up Cam Newton
Cam Newton’s dual-threat ability is the single biggest problem facing the Ravens defense. Newton’s first inclination will be to pass, but if the Ravens secondary can cover the receivers, Newton will look to run. The Ravens will need to have the front seven, linebackers and the defensive line, work to stop Cam Newton from running the ball. The secondary, with Jimmy Smith and Brandon Carr both expected to play, should be able to hold the receivers from performing well. If this happens, and the Ravens can stop veteran tight end, Greg Olsen, Cam Newton will try to get the yards himself on the ground. If he is stopped, then the Ravens defense effectively will neutralize the Panthers offense.
Offense Must Establish Run Game
The Ravens offense has been one of the most improved units in the league. However, as Joe Flacco commands a valiant passing attack, the running game has yet to join the battle. Alex Collins broke out last season and nearly hit 1,000 yards rushing. This season, however, he has yet to even rush for over 100 yards in a single game. No running back for the Ravens has been able to step up and revitalize the ground game. The Ravens need someone, anyone, to come in and stabilize the offense on the ground. If the Ravens rushing attack finds a way to make an impact against the Panthers, the offense will be more balanced, score more points, and the Ravens will have a better chance of winning the game. The only problem is that the Panthers have a very good run defense. Carolina ranks ninth in the league in the least run yards allowed.
Flacco Must Take Advantage of Mediocre Passing Defense
Joe Flacco is facing a middle of the road pass defense. The Panthers currently rank 17th in the league in lowest pass yards allowed per game. The Ravens running game is not expected to help the team very much, and the Ravens offense needs to take command of the game. John Brown, Michael Crabtree, and Willie Snead have been a prolific trio, and the Ravens need to see all three produce against the Panthers. The passing attack must be the engine that moves the Ravens offense. Against the Saints, the unit performed admirably, but could not keep scoring once a lead was created. The Ravens need to score points and prevent the Panthers from going on long streaks of unanswered points.
The Ravens cannot afford to lose this game, and will not lose the game. While the running game will continue to struggle, the passing attack will take advantage of a mediocre defense. The Ravens defense will work to establish its dominance, and hold Cam Newton to a modest amount of success on the ground. Meanwhile, the Ravens secondary will have no problem covering up Funchess and Moore, but Greg Olsen will give the team problems. Ultimately, the Ravens will score in every quarter, finishing with 28 points and a win. Carolina will score just 20.