This Sunday, the Carolina Panthers face an Atlanta Falcons team it can completely beat. The Panthers have shown they can stay competitive and stay in close games, but they have yet to really show they can seal the deal.
This is the week that they show they can put it all together and win in dominating fashion. This is how. These are the keys to getting Cam Newton and coach Rivera's first divisional win against Matt Ryan and the Falcons
Teams have only made contact with Cam Newton behind the line of scrimmage 26 times. That is tied for second best in the league. One of the things that the Panthers had playing in their favor heading into the season, despite likely playing a mobile, rookie quarterback, was the fact that the offensive line is so strong.
They have proved their worth this season in protecting their best playmaker. Despite Newton's downfield rushes, if he is able to take less shots in the pocket, he may extend his career and keep from going the way of Michael Vick's train wreck of a season.
Here's an interesting fact from ESPN: Matt Ryan can't hit receivers on the deep ball this year.
It's extremely counterintuitive. The Atlanta Falcons have Roddy White, arguably one of the five best receivers in the game, and Julio Jones, the highly-touted rookie, running routes. Matt Ryan should be eating up secondaries.
He's not, though. He is only 2-of-14.
So if Carolina's linebackers and nickel and dime corner can take away the short and medium passing game, the Panthers' secondary is in for a big day.
Cam Newton has not been putting up the same type of numbers as the first two weeks, but has instead shown the ability to make better plays. That, combined with the Falcons poor passing defense, means Cam should have another big weekend.
If the Panthers focus on an aerial attack rather than the rushing attack fans have been begging for, the Panthers should improve to 2-4.
The Panthers have been in every single game they have played this season because of Cam Newton. There is no reason to change the offensive game plan because of one big weekend by DeAngelo Williams.
It is great that there is more focus on the running game and if the Panthers can get ahead, there will be less reason to be throwing the entire second half. Let's not forget, Cam is the only reason this team has been in most of these games.
Let the man make some plays.
After a touchdown from Steve Smith, the New Orleans Saints' Roman Harper decided to start something. He picked a fight with the wrong version of the Carolina Panthers.
Last season, it would not have been a surprise to see Jimmy Clausen run off the field and Steve Smith fight the entire Saints team by himself. This season, though, Smith was surrounded, quickly, by the entire team, including the 6'5" quarterback who ran 50 yards downfield to get in on the action.
While they might not be a winning team yet, the Panthers are a team. That in itself is a victory.