Carolina Panthers Vs. Baltimore Ravens: Will Brian St. Pierre Survive Sunday?

Kyle Vassalo@VassaloBRFeatured ColumnistNovember 18, 2010

PITTSBURGH - JANUARY 18:  Haloti Ngata #92 and Ray Lewis #52 of the Baltimore Ravens celebrate after Ngata recorded a sack in the first quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the AFC Championship game on January 18, 2009 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

Baltimore Ravens at Carolina Panthers

Sunday November 21st, 2010 1:00 PM EST

Line: Baltimore -10


The 1-8 Panthers are the worst team in the NFL. To make matters worse, they placed DeAngelo Williams, arguably their best player, on the IR. The Panthers have lost seven of their games by ten points or more. Despite losing in a Thursday thriller last week against Atlanta, the Ravens are still 6-3 and tied for first place in the AFC North. With two teams on opposite ends of the spectrum, is a blowout inevitable?

Keys to the Game:

  • The Panthers have gone between Matt Moore and Jimmy Clausen this year, to no avail. They are really going to struggle now, as both quarterbacks are out and Brian St. Pierre is likely to get the start. St. Pierre was pulled up off the practice squad to take the helm. St. Pierre only has five career attempts. The Panthers don’t have a great offensive line, their run game has been non existent, and there is little help for St. Pierre to fall back on. To make matters worse, he is facing the Baltimore Ravens. Expect the Ravens to show a lot of different looks. In their defense, they can send pressure from anywhere. This is going to make for a long day in Carolina.
  • Jon Beason is likely out with an injury. The diamond in the rough on an atrocious Panthers defense, Beason is the heart and soul of the Panthers' defense. His loss makes their already soft defense non existent. With a struggling offense, the Panthers need a defense they can rely on. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like they will provide much resistance.
  • Ray Rice is going to have a field day. The Panthers allow 131.6 yards per game. To make matters worse, they have no Jon Beason. Rice has 665 yards this season. While he has taken a step backwards from last season, you can expect him to break for huge gainers. The Panthers are much better against the pass than the run this season (probably because not many teams have needed to throw the ball). Regardless, expect the Ravens to feed Rice carries early and often.
  • Haloti Ngata is to the defensive tackle position what Darrelle Revis is to the cornerback position. With five sacks this year as a defensive lineman in the 3-4 defense, Ngata has flat out dominated the line of scrimmage. Teams can gameplan to stop Ngata, but having Ray Lewis and Terrelle Suggs lurking in the front seven makes it difficult to do so. The Ravens' linebackers are kept clean due to Ngata’s incredible play. Ndamukong Suh is getting a lot of credit for his play. People need to start taking notice of Ngata’s efforts.
  • Joe Flacco has two interceptions and 14 touchdowns in the last seven games. Flacco has the game manager tag thrown on him constantly, which is understandable. When a quarterback enters a team that is packed with talent, it is easy to label him a game manager. This season, Flacco is proving he can be a difference maker. He could take over the quarterback position in Carolina and lose the degrading game manager connotation instantly. My point is that although Flacco might not put up 300 yards a game, he still plays a vital role in the offense.

Key Matchup:

Steve Smith Vs. Baltimore’s Secondary

  • Steve Smith needs to step it up this week. He has been held in check virtually all season, through no fault of his own. He needs to be there for his inexperienced quarterback. Smith is a great receiver. The problem is that he is the only real force on the Panthers' offense this year. Jonathan Stewart has been quiet the entire year, so if the Panthers are going to have any success from their offense, it will be in large part because of the success Smith has.
  • Baltimore has shown weakness in their secondary, especially in the past few games. This may seem laughable given the state of things in Carolina, but the Ravens struggle against elite receivers. Steve Smith isn’t Roddy White and he has no one throwing him the ball. That being said, if the Panthers are going to keep it within ten, it’s going to be up to Smith to get it done.

Wrap Up:

The Ravens are coming off a long week after playing Thursday Night football. Getting extra days to prepare for Carolina is going to spell disaster for the Panthers. The Panthers have made a habit of being blown out. They have nothing to play for and playing at home isn’t going to be of any aide. They simply don’t have the personnel to compete.

Free NFL Pick: Baltimore -10