Cam Newton: Will Carolina Panthers QB Deliver a Winning Season?

Jeff Grant@@JeffGrantSportsContributor IMay 14, 2012

CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 24:  Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers celebrates after his team scored a touchdown during their game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Bank of America Stadium on December 24, 2011 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Cam Newton spearheaded a four-game improvement for the Carolina Panthers during the 2011 NFL season, which could be the beginning of a tremendous run in the NFC South division.

BetOnline sports book clearly expects the public to buy into the hype, setting the Panthers' regular season win total at 8.5, while their Super Bowl odds are priced at 51/1.

Newton nearly won the 2011 NFL Rookie of the Year award in unanimous fashion, throwing for 4,051 yards and 21 touchdowns, as well as 14 rushing scores, in playing all 16 games. The most telling stat of all is certainly the team's 210-point improvement from the previous year with him under center.

The Panthers were outscored by an incredible 408-196 margin, which resulted in a 2-14 record in 2010, causing the franchise to take a chance on the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback out of Auburn. The team selected him with the first pick in the 2011 NFL draft.

Carolina will likely take another step forward in its rebuilding process if the 2012 NFL draft class is able to contribute on Sundays, especially first-round selection Luke Kuechly. The linebacker out of Boston College finished with a school-record 532 tackles in his three years on campus.

Wide receiver Steve Smith is also expected to play a major role in the development of Newton. The 12-year veteran finished with 1,394 receiving yards in 2011, which nearly matched his combined total of 1,536 in the previous two years.

It's absolutely imperative that the Panthers come out of Tampa Bay with a victory to open up their 2012 NFL schedule, as they host the New Orleans Saints and defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants the following two weeks. Carolina won both regular season meetings with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a year ago, including a 38-19 victory as one-point road favorites on Dec. 4.

I'm definitely a believer in Newton, but I can't recommend a play on the "over" due to the strength of the division he plays in.

Early Prediction: Carolina Panthers finish with an 8-8 record

Follow on Twitter: @JeffGrantSports  

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