The Carolina Panthers are a team many pundits are overlooking in the NFC South. They’re changing offenses and have some questions defensively but still have the potential to surprise. Meanwhile the Baltimore Ravens are retooling the defense and facing a tough climb to repeat their Super Bowl Championship.
The two teams meet on Thursday night at 9pm EST – here are three things to watch for in the game.
1) Cam Newton hasn’t exactly lit up the preseason in his new “simplified” offense. He’s done OK, but OK isn’t quite good enough. The Baltimore Ravens are a defense in transition, but still a pretty good one. This is another good test for Newton and new offensive coordinator Mike Shula and one where they can show what the two of them are capable of.
2) The Ravens have been ranked 22nd in the league against the run so far this preseason and while it isn’t a huge concern, it is something they need to change. While the Panthers haven’t been destroying teams on the ground, DeAngelo Williams and Cam Newton can be dangerous. This isn’t the ultimate test, but it could be a very good test for a defense looking to re-establish themselves.
3) Is the Carolina secondary going to step up? So far they haven’t been exactly blanketing receivers and while some of the damage was done against the second and third strings, the first string needs to play better. The defense has some talent in the front seven – guys like Luke Kuechly and rookie Star Lotulelei – and can create pressure on the quarterback, but the secondary needs to generate some turnovers.
Andrew Garda is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association. He is also a member of the fantasy football staff at Footballguys.com and an NFL writer at Bleacher Report. You can follow him at @andrew_garda on Twitter.