While Tom Brady and the New England Patriots are still trying to escape the aftermath of what was one of the more controversial calls, or no-calls, we’ve seen this year, Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers have moved on and are looking forward to Sunday’s matchup with the Miami Dolphins.
Sitting at 7-3 and winners of six straight, the Panthers have turned this season into something special. Since Newton has come aboard, they had not been above .500 once. This year, they’re aiming far higher than that. Boasting one of the league’s top defenses, they now believe they can win the NFC South and make a run at a Super Bowl.
With the New Orleans Saints currently at 8-2, the Panthers are a game behind, and some may think, waiting for the Saints to blow a game. But in reality, the Panthers control their own destiny and don’t have to wait for the Saints to lose one of their remaining games in order to catch up.
All the Panthers have to do is make sure they beat the Saints — twice.
The Saints have a game yet to play against the likes of the Seattle Seahawks, which could wind up doing wonders for Carolina if New Orleans drops that one. The Panthers, though, have a pretty winnable schedule for the remaining five games outside of the Saints: Games against the Dolphins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New York Jets and Atlanta Falcons.
With the way Newton has this offense operating and how efficient the team has been in all three phases, I don’t see any reason why they can’t win those four games. Now, against the Saints, they’ll have to find a way to slow down Drew Brees. That is much easier said than done as he’s enthroned on a beautiful 106.7 rating this season.
Carolina is going to have to do what they do best against New Orleans: Run the football. New Orleans’ defense has been tremendous against the pass this year but have some soft spots when stopping the run, thus they have the 17th-best run defense in the league. Newton will be forced to make plays through the air, I’m sure, but the ground attack will be crucial in winning a pair of games against the Saints.
With or without some help from the Seahawks, the Panthers can win the division is they simply take care of business against New Orleans. Now, that’s not simple by any means, but if any team is hot enough to make it happen right now, it’s Carolina.