Thursday is Cam Newton’s night. It’s his time to put a show on. He’s without the pressure of a home crowd and can rally his teammates on the road, as the 3-3 Carolina Panthers visit the winless and troubled Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The game kicks off at 8:25 p.m. ET on the NFL Network.
Newton has become the forgotten man among the NFL’s elite athletic quarterbacks. Thursday, that can all change with a chance to bring his Panthers to over .500 eight weeks into the season.
With the Atlanta Falcons stumbling out of the gates, the Panthers are in position to battle for a wild card berth. That is a pleasant surprise for those who have been following Newton’s career, since he took home the Heisman and the national championship while attending Auburn.
For the most part, it has been a struggle for Newton and his Panthers since he arrived to help save and rebuild the young franchise.
The Panthers reached a low point in 2010 with a 2-14 record. But that meant they got the first pick and chose Newton.
Since his initiation into the big leagues in 2011, he has started every game, ending that first season with a 6-10 record. The following season saw a one game improvement to 7-9. Logic follows that the Panthers should play to an 8-8 record this year, which might be good enough for the last wild card in the NFC, though 9-7 would make things much easier.
Getting to 9-7 for the Panthers means winning the games they are expected to win. Thursday night, the Carolina is expected to win.
But fans want to see more than a standard win. They want to see Newton do a little bit of everything and show some shake and bake. He has weapons around him, including two all-time figures in Carolina Panther history. Newton and the coaching staff will have to incorporate DeAngelo Williams and Steve Smith – all-time leading Panther rusher and receiver respectively – into the game early.
Make no mistake about it, this is a big game for the NFL too. The NFL has a lot at stake with Cam Newton at the controls. He carries a lot of weight and monster marketing potential. He will win a Super Bowl eventually and just about everybody in and around the league knows it.
Prediction: Newton and the Panther defense take control of this game and dominate, final score Panthers 47, Buccaneers 10
Howard Alperin is Managing Editor of AmericanizeSoccer.com