Key Matchups for Panthers vs. Ravens

The storyline that will dominate this week's game against the Ravens will be Steve Smith Sr. first game against his former team. While this will be important to watch, I have identified a few other key matchups to look for on Sunday.

DeAngelo Williams vs. Ravens’ Front Seven

The Panthers have struggled to get their rushing attacking going this year, currently rankings 29th in the NFL. Their yards per game total have dropped from 126.6 yards in 2013 to 72.3 yards.

The return of DeAngelo Williams this week should help jump start the run game but it won’t be easy against a Ravens defense that currently ranks eighth in the NFL against the run (87.7 yards per game). The Ravens defensive line has one of the best nose tackles in the game, Haloti Ngata, who is the key to their defensive line’s success.

If Ryan Kalil is able to keep him contained, with help from his guards, Williams has a much better chance of being successful against Baltimore.

Antoine Cason vs. Steve Smith Sr.

The main attraction in this game is Steve Smith Sr. going up against his former team. Before being released this offseason, Smith Sr. was the emotional leader of the Panthers. This has been a game that has been circled since Smith Sr. was cut. Shortly after the announcement, Smith Sr. said there would be “blood and guts everywhere.”

I expect Antoine Cason to be lined up for most of the day against Smith Sr. and is going to have to focus on keeping his emotions in check. He can’t get sucked into the emotional battle that Smith Sr. hopes to wage. He will need to focus on the game and not be baited into unnecessary penalties.

Cam Newton vs. Ravens’ Secondary

While the Ravens run defense has been stout, they have struggled defending the pass. They are currently 25th in the NFL, giving up an average of 264 yards per game. Their rank drops to 28th when looking at yards per attempt (8.1 yards).

The Ravens have done a good job shutting down the tight ends they have faced this season (Tyler Eifert, Heath Miller, and Jordan Cameron) which means Greg Olsen could struggle a bit.

The area the Ravens are beatable is over the top. In two of their first three games, they have given up at least one pass plays of 70 or more yards. I would expect Newton to rely on his receivers on the outside, like Kelvin Benjamin, to move the ball down the field.

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