If we’re talking win or go home, every game becomes a career defining game. Andrew Luck experienced that Saturday in a remarkable comeback victory. For Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers, that chance comes Jan.12 when they take on Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco 49ers, and even though the Panthers won the regular season matchup, this team and its quarterback stare down one hell of an opportunity.
Newton is naturally assured, but even he acknowledges it’s his biggest challenge yet.
“It’s nothing like college at all,” he said. “I [have] yet to experience a playoff game. I know the atmosphere is going to be hectic, to say the least. It’s a lot more to play for if you ask me.”
This ain’t college kid, there’s much more to play for. But even as he steps into the atmosphere of his first playoff game, Newton has an incredible season to take away going into the offseason.
With a career-high 24 touchdowns thrown, Newton is enjoying his best season as a pro, while the Panthers’ second ranked rush defense has given Carolina fans thoughts of 2003. That was the first and last Super Bowl appearance the Panthers made, the last time the Panthers made it to the divisional playoffs was 2008 — a loss to the Arizona Cardinals.
Does a win legitimize Newton as a franchise quarterback? And will a loss spark the debate that Newton is over-hyped?
“We shouldn’t (care) because we don’t have any control over it. We have to worry about ourselves first,” Newton told the Charlotte Observer. “I feel if we’re playing at our best, there’s really no team that can stop us.”
We’ll know all the answers Jan.12, and what an incredible game that should be.