MIKE PRESTON’S KEY MATCHUPS
Martindale has dialed up well-designed blitzes and pressure packages this season. But Newton is different from any other quarterback the Ravens have faced. He is big and agile, and can makes plays by design or by improvising to escape the pocket. Newton has thrown for 1,427 yards, and run for 257 yards on 52 carries. It will be interesting to see how the Ravens try to contain him and if they use a “spy” on third-down passing situations.
Carolina has a tough, physical trio that controls the middle. Kuechly is often mentioned as one of the best middle linebackers in the game, and Davis is the veteran who always seems to come up with a big play. Thompson is second on the team in tackles with 35 behind Kuechly’s 52. The Ravens lack experience, and strength and size give the Panthers an advantage.
To slow the Panthers offense, the Ravens must contain Newton and then McCaffrey. The latter is an all-purpose back, with 378 yards on 78 carries, and he also leads the team in receiving with 40 catches for 269 yards. Mosley will have to be strong inside because the Panthers will try to establish the run, a major staple of the offense. But on passing situations McCaffrey might be too much for all three.