Eric Adams, Staff Writer
The 2017 Carolina Panthers are 2-1 on the young season. That record, to the blind eye, tells you that they have started out well. However, that is simply not the case and with a schedule that is ramping up, they need to fix things and fast. Unfortunately for Carolina, that quick fix is nowhere in sight when the QB is playing as bad as he is.
It All Starts with the QB
In fantasy football, Matt and I both had Cam Newton as a big bounce-back candidate and that has just not been the case. As a Cam owner last year, I truly believed the offseason would be a good time for Cam to get right and heal. It now looks as if Cam is taking a major step back from his 2015 MVP season. There are major questions about his shoulder and throwing ability as well as the fact that he takes some major hits.
As is the case with any mobile quarterback, Cam relies on his legs to keep the defense honest. With the Panthers going with a new approach to keep Cam in the pocket to protect him more, that mobility threat is greatly diminished. The harsh reality is that if Cam runs less, the Panthers offense won’t be as daunting. If Cam runs more, then he is susceptible to the big hits that hampered his 2016 season. Cam had an average day against a nameless 49ers defense, a mediocre day against a nameless Bills defense and a REALLY BAD day against an awful Saints defense.
Here’s some hope for Cam Newton and his fantasy owners: they play the Patriots next week. I know that sounds like a bad matchup, especially at Gillette, but the Patriots defense is most vulnerable early on in the season before they can get things figured out. Just look at the numbers and you’ll see that the Patriots have the 32nd ranked defense at the moment. While I don’t expect that to stand (they’re way too talented to not get it going), it won’t be a quick fix. As long as Cam doesn’t force throws, which he did a lot against New Orleans, he should be primed for a bounce back game. If he doesn’t and has another bad game, then it might get ugly.
How good is this Panthers defense?
The Panthers have played two really good games on defense against two really bad offenses. The first game against a formidable offense ended badly, giving up 34 points to the Saints and Drew Brees. So obviously the next team couldn’t possibly be more potent than the Saints’ offensive attack, right? Wrong, enter the leagues top ranked offense in the Patriots led by Tom Brady.
The Panthers have a very good front 7, so Brady will surely feel some heat in this game. However, the Panthers have a very young and inexperienced secondary. Although they performed admirably in weeks 1 and 2, they were torched by big plays against the Saints. The Patriots currently have the most plays in the league on offense that has gone for 20 or more yards. Put two and two together and you have “uh-oh” for the Panthers.
Brady is going to pick apart this secondary, even with heavy pressure because he always finds a way. In order for the Panthers to win, they will need to score…A LOT.
My Diagnosis: Stick it out until Greg Olsen gets back
Olsen is the safety valve for Newton. Losing him for 2 months is obviously going to force the offense to evolve. I don’t see the Panthers being able to keep up with the Falcons but a wild card spot can still happen. It all will fall back to Cam and how he improves this season. If Cam sputters through the Olsen injury then the Panthers are cooked, but if he can string together some wins then they can hang around in an NFC that seems to be lacking this year.
It may not start this week as going into Foxborough to silence the defending champs is a tall task, but if they stay competitive into the game then they can allow themselves to believe that they belong. It looks bleak right now, but this team has the potential to fight back after that ugly loss to the Saints. It starts and ends with Cam and how he responds and that has been the story ever since he walked off the field after Super Bowl 50.