The Carolina Panthers are set to play the Atlanta Falcons in a Week 4 matchup that could shape the NFC South picture for the rest of the season. And no player will have more of an impact on this game than Panthers superstar sophomore QB Cam Newton.
It’s no surprise, considering that the Panthers have lived and died over the past two NFL seasons behind the arm and legs of Newton.
That was especially true in Carolina’s two matchups against Atlanta in 2011. Newton was a combined 40-of-74 with two touchdowns and five interceptions in those meetings, with an added 83 yards and a TD on the ground via 14 rushing attempts.
Of course, the Panthers lost both of those divisional games last year. If they want to pull out a W on Sunday, the former Heisman-winning QB is going to need to play his best.
Will Cam and the Panthers find a way to win? Let’s take a look at what we can expect from the signal-caller.
Predicted Stats: 21-of-38 Passing for 256 yards, 2 TD and 2 INT/12 Rush Attempts for 90 yards and 1 TD
Newton should put together a mediocre completion percentage for decent yards, but generate at least two scores on this Falcons defense via the air.
While Atlanta has been blanketing its opposition's passing attack (the secondary has given up just two touchdowns compared to seven interceptions and allows just 207.7 yards per game), it hasn't faced a mobile QB yet in 2012.
The Falcons' ground containment has been lackluster, allowing an average of 128.7 yards over three contests, along with three runs of 20-plus yards and two rushes for over 40 yards. They’ve also given up four scores to opposing rushers, which means Newton should easily find the end zone at least once.
Cam’s ability to extend plays, avoid the pass rush and create opportunities with his feet will mean plenty of chances for his WRs to get open and make something happen.
It’s should be quite a decent day for Newton against the Falcons D.
Projected Outcome: Panthers 35, Falcons 32
If Cam can contribute at least three touchdowns himself, the Panthers have a great chance of walking away with a victory.
Which Team Will Win?
Because of the strength of Carolina’s ground attack—which features Newton, Jonathan Stewart, Mike Tolbert and DeAngelo Williams—along with the weakness of Atlanta’s rush defense, there is no reason to believe that the Panthers will have trouble putting up touchdowns.
Should the Carolina defense contribute a few stops and big plays (that is easier said than done), expect Newton to bring his team to 2-2 on the season.