The Carolina Panthers and Cam Newton are a match made in heaven in one major criteria: they are both wildly inconsistent. Even with the way they have played this year, I believe it is extremely difficult to pick the Panthers to beat teams like the Rams, Saints or Vikings in the playoffs. I also place a lot of the blame on Cam Newton, and here’s why.
The Carolina Panthers finished this season with an 11-5 record, earning themselves the fifth seed in the NFC Playoff Bracket. Cam Newton started at quarterback for his seventh season with the Panthers and was wildly inconsistent throughout the year. For example, Cam Newton threw for 242 yards and 4 TD’s against the Packers in Week 15 and had a 64.5% completion percentage. The final two weeks of the season, Newton threw for just 340 yards with 1 TD and 4 INT’s. In Week 17, when the Panthers had a chance to secure a home playoff game and jump to the third seed, Newton posted his second-worst completion percentage of the year at just 41.2% as well as his third 3 INT game of 2017. This inconsistency at QB is the one factor that has prevented the Panthers from winning a Lombardi trophy, and if it continues they won’t win one this year either.
Overall this year, Newton has thrown for 3,302 yards with 22 TD’s and 16 INT’s. He posted a QBR of 80.7, well below the average among starting QB’s. Newton has a big arm, but let’s stop giving him the benefit of the doubt. When in the pocket, he is an average to below-average quarterback. However, as we all know, there is more to Newton’s game than just throwing the football. He has the sixth-most rushing TD’s among all active players with 54, the next QB being Aaron Rodgers with 25. Newton is by far the best running QB in the NFL right now, and he should be. The Panthers offense is built for and through the strengths and weaknesses of Cam Newton, whether it be read option plays, run-pass options, or designed QB runs. Not only has Carolina not restricted Newton’s running game, they have encouraged it. At 6’6” and roughly 260 lbs, he is usually the best athlete on the field at any given time and it shows.
Despite all of this, I am hesitant to call Newton a true dual-threat QB. Throughout this season he has showed the world that he is both extremely talented and extremely inconsistent. If he can play the way he did in his 2015 MVP season in the playoffs, I believe Carolina has just as much of a chance as anyone. But until I see consistent play from the QB position, I don’t believe there is any real way to pick Carolina to beat any of these NFC playoff teams going forward.