TE Jeff King (Streeter Lecka/Getty)
John Fox is trying to hold his team together with duct tape and bailing wire. If his Carolina Panthers are to pull off an upset of the Baltimore Ravens, he'll need these familiar faces to show up and shine.
Offense: TEs Dante Rosario and Jeff King
On a historically bad offense, with little to no quarterback experience, it stands to reason the tight ends would see an increase in receptions. That hasn't been the case for the Panthers this year; in fact, there hasn't been much tight end production here since the days of Wesley Walls.
Rosario and King, with only 32 receptions between them, have had to do plenty of blocking this year to give their young quarterbacks as much time as possible. With Brian St. Pierre, he of five career pass attempts and barely a week on the roster, starting this week, it stands to reason the tight ends will again be asked to protect. That's no easy task against a Ravens defense that isn't as dominant as it once was, but it is frothing at the mouth given the youth and inexperience it will face this week.
Defense: DT Ed Johnson
On paper, this game should not be close. The Ravens come in with a wealth of weapons on offense, but there have been grumblings around the league that quarterback Joe Flacco isn't as quick through his progressions as he should be. If Johnson can generate any kind of a pass rush and get in Flacco's face early, the Panthers may have a chance.
Johnson and the rest of the defense must be aware of running back Ray Rice and his pass-catching abilities. Rice, tied for fifth among running backs in receptions, is a big factor in the Ravens' passing game. If Johnson is able to get pressure on Flacco he has to bring him down, or he may wind up chasing Rice into the end zone.
Special Teams: LS J.J. Jansen
The Panthers have punted 50 times (tied for the sixth most in the league) and attempted only 15 field goals. In a perfect world, Jansen is only on the field for extra points, but this season has been the opposite of perfect for the Panthers.
Regardless, the team must capitalize on every opportunity and can't afford a bad field goal snap or a disastrous snap sailing over P Jason Baker's head. There is no room for error anywhere on this team and something as fundamental as a successful punt snap will be met with a sigh of relief.