The Armchair Quarterback’s Take Of The Week
The Carolina Panthers Are A Force To Be Reckoned With In The NFC
Monday night the Carolina Panthers held on (with a little help from the refs) to beat Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. Penalty (or lack there of) aside, the Panthers sent a statement to the NFL by knocking off high profile teams in back to back weeks with wins at San Francisco and at home against the Patriots. That makes six consecutive wins now for Cam Newton and the gang.
With an overall record of 7-3, the Panthers now own the third best record in the NFC, behind only Seattle and New Orleans. They are only one game behind the Saints in the NFC South and they still have two head to head games coming up. In fact, the New Orleans/Carolina scenario mirrors that of the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs in more ways than one. First off, they are two of the better teams in their conference and will battle head to head twice in a three week span with the division and a first round bye on the line. Second, the matchup will feature a prolific Saints offense going up against Carolina’s top defense in terms of points allowed in the NFL.
While the Saints’ home field advantage is widely respected, Carolina is developing a reputation of their own. They are 4-1 at home this season, with the only loss coming in a 12-7 slugfest with the NFC’s current #1 seed, Seattle. New Orleans still has to travel to Seattle next week, so it’s entirely possible that these teams will be in a dead heat when their head to head match ups come around. So in a few short weeks the Panthers have gone from a team hoping to compete for a wild card, to a team with a legit shot at a first round bye in the playoffs. If they were to land a first round bye, I would like their odds of at least making the NFC Championship Game.
Cam Newton is clearly the face of this franchise and people continue to be divided on him. Some feel he is one of the elite up and coming young players in all of football and others see him as someone who is more a product of media hype and his natural athleticism. However, the numbers can’t be disputed. Through a little over two and a half seasons, Cam has completed 60% of his passes for 7.76 yards per attempt, with 56 TDs and 37 INTs. If you add in Newton’s 26 rushing TDs his TD total jumps up to 82. That’s an average of about 2 TDs per game for his young career. Not everyone may like the way he carries himself, but there is simply no doubting his talent.
While Cam may draw a lot of the media attention on the team, their heart and soul is actually their defense. After KC allowed 27 points to Denver on Sunday, the Panthers holding the Pats to 20 points was enough to leapfrog them into the top spot for points allowed. Through 10 games they are only giving up 13.5 PPG. They are also in the top ten in yards allowed, sacks, and turnovers.
Their offense, while not as elite as their defense, has been productive enough to get the job done. The combination of Newton occasionally making big plays and a solid and consistent rushing attack compliment their strong defense very well.
In a lot of ways, the Panthers have become the 49ers from last season’s Super Bowl Run. An elite defense with a good running game and an explosive QB who occasionally makes a big play. If Newton can continue to limit mistakes and make some big plays, the sky’s the limit for this team. If that happens, this will be the team that nobody wants to play come playoff time.
Now on to this week’s game predictions……