Cam Newton: How Far Will He Take the Carolina Panthers This Year?
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The NFL is buzzing with the huge passing stats coming out of Carolina and Cam Newton. So far, Newton has been a force on the field, but it hasn't translated into wins.
The Panthers were the worst team in the league last season and while experts predicted they wouldn't be quite as bad this year, none of them predicted Newton to be quite this good.
The Panthers have been a run-first team throughout their history, but now they have become a passing team and are joining the rest of the league in the 21st century.
So how far can this surprising rookie and his cannon of an arm take the Panthers? Probably not as far as his stats would lead you to believe, but farther than last year for sure.
Here is how the surprise player of the early NFL season will change the Panthers' fortunes in 2011.
Cam Newton's Personal Stats
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Cam Newton is doing all the right things and may end up setting records for passing yards by a rookie, but teams will begin to figure him out.
Newton already has 854 yards in two games.
It's unlikely he will keep that pace for the rest of the season, but he could easily get 4,000 yards and it wouldn't be surprising if he set the franchise record for passing yards in a season.
Newton is on pace to have 6,832 yards passing, which obviously won't happen, but getting to Steve Beuerlein's 4,438 yard mark is attainable.
The stat to watch will be his accuracy.
He lit up a terrible Arizona secondary, and while his completion percentage only dropped by four percentage points against the Packers, he also threw three interceptions. That trend of declining accuracy will probably not continue this week against Jacksonville, but later in the season it will.
As teams start to scheme against the pass, Newton will end up having more passes broken up. There is no reason he cannot keep his accuracy over 55 percent, but it will drop as defenses figure him out.
The Carolina Panthers Will Soon Lure Free Agents
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An interesting comparison can be drawn between Carolina and the Atlanta Falcons after they drafted Michael Vick. Before Newton and Vick were drafted, neither team drew much free agent attention.
Following Vick's first season, the Falcons became a hot commodity. They signed Warrick Dunn and Peerless Price,—he was seen as valuable at the time—and Lawyer Milloy and Michael Turner in the years since. Prior to that, the Falcons generally had to find home-grown talent or hope for cheap free agents to sign.
The Panthers have faced a similar fate.
Keyshawn Johnson, Maake Kemoeatu and Jake Delhomme were the "top" free agents the Panthers signed coming from other teams in the past ten years. Some of that is the organization's philosophy and some of it probably has to do with them not being a consistent winner.
Teams such as the New England Patriots, the New York Jets and Baltimore Ravens—all winners—draw free agents. This may be a sign that Carolina will be able to sign free agents also in the next offseason.
Probable Wins For the Carolina Panthers
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The Carolina Panthers play in the NFC South, one of the toughest divisions in the league. They have to face Atlanta, New Orleans and Tampa Bay twice a year.
While they were swept last season in divisional games, they will not let that happen again this year.
The Panthers should win two games against the NFC South. Defeating Tampa Bay at home to spoil any playoff chances would be a good way to end the season and possibly beating Atlanta in on the road would be an upset pick.
Beyond that, the Panthers drew a few favorable match-ups. For example, Jacksonville, Minnesota, Indianapolis, Tennessee and Houston are all beatable teams.
The Jaguars are a run-focused defense, so Newton should have another big day and get a win. The Vikings look terrible on both sides of the ball and, if not for Adrian Peterson, could end up with the worst record in the league. The Titans have been up and down so far, but the Panthers play them after a bye so they should be extra prepared. The Texans are known for late-season collapses, so that will be a game to watch also.
The only guarantee is that the Panthers will beat the Colts.
No Longer Cellar Dwellers
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If the Panthers can pull out a better divisional record, they technically won't be the worst team in the NFC South and that's a step in the right direction.
Cam Newton can most likely lead the Panthers to a tie with the Buccaneers for last place. The Panthers should win about six or seven games if the defense can recover from the devastating injuries to Jon Beason and Thomas Davis.
Last year, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were a surprise team and had an easy schedule. This year, they will not surprise anyone, as they have barely avoided an 0-2 start.
The Bucs will probably end up with a similar record to Carolina because San Francisco, Jacksonville, Tennessee and Indianapolis look like the only sure wins for Tampa Bay. They will probably lose one of those, though, because they don't look like they can currently hang with Atlanta or New Orleans.
A good expectation for Carolina's record this season is a 7-9 mark.