Pressure Brady: The New York Jets and Cincinnati Bengals each sacked quarterback Tom Brady four times and kept constant pressure on him in the pocket. Each time Brady had a passer rating below 56. Each time the Patriots lost. Pittsburgh didn't keep the pressure constant in New England's last outing. Brady had four touchdown passes and a passer rating of 151.8. Simple math.
Brady and Gronkowski: You're starting to see a Brady theme here, right? There's a reason. Brady connected with tight end Rob Gronkowski nine times for 143 yards and a touchdown in their last outing. The Panthers have struggled at times to cover the tight end, most recently the first half against Atlanta when Tony Gonzalez caught five passes for 77 yards and a touchdown. They'll probably do some of the things they did to hold him to one catch for four yards in the second half. Middle linebacker Luke Kuechly could play a big role.
Ball control: The Panthers should be able to run against New England's 30th-ranked run defense with a heavy dose of DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert. That should open up the short passing game, allowing the NFL's No. 1 team in time of possession to -- you guessed it -- keep the ball out of the hands of Brady.
Cam in the spotlight: Funny, quarterback Cam Newton has taken somewhat of a backseat since the performance of the defense in last week's 10-9 victory at San Francisco. He'll be front and center in this one against a New England defense that, despite its deficiencies against the run, typically finds a way to take a way strengths. The Panthers need Newton to return to the consistency he showed during the first three games of this five-game winning streak. He may even find some running room against this group.
Adjust, adjust, adjust: Patriots coach Bill Belichick is going to throw a few wrinkles at the Panthers they're not expecting. Give the man 15 days to prepare and he's almost impossible to beat. But Carolina has done a good job during this winning streak of making in-game adjustments. That will be more important than ever in this one.