Can Cam Newton lead the Panthers to Super Bowl 50?

Ever since becoming the 1st overall pick of the 2011 NFL Draft there has been a hype surrounding Cam Newton and his Carolina Panthers team. Despite having only a 7-8-1 record during the 2014 regular season Newton took Carolina all the way to the NFC Divisional Championship at Century Link Field, the second straight year that Carolina has gone out in the Divisional round of the playoffs. Coach Ron Rivera and Newton have got the Panthers flying high in 2015, as they currently sit atop the entire NFC at 6-0 (tied with the Green Bay Packers) going into week eight. Can this team maintain their current form? Can Cam Newton quarterback the Panthers to Super Bowl 50?

The Panthers’ showing in Week Six against the Seattle Seahawks shows just how much this team has improved from a year ago. Newton finally defeated the team who has largely been considered a nemesis of his since he entered the NFL, but it was the manner of the victory which defines the character of this current squad. Cam publicly undermined the 12th man of Seattle by saying in an interview that ‘loud is loud’, trying to downplay the significance of Seattle’s home field advantage. The 12th man certainly tried to get to Newton, and the Carolina offense was flagged for three separate false starts during the game. Cam Newton also threw two interceptions, but Carolina battled through a fair amount of adversity and prolonged their perfect start to the season.

One thing which will fill any Panthers’ fan with confidence is that their team is continually being likened to the Seattle Seahawks team which reached the past two Super Bowls. Cam Newton and Russell Wilson have both been invested in heavily, and both display an unnatural elusiveness and ability to escape pressure in the pocket. This is partly due to the sub-par performance of the respective teams offensive lines, but it is largely because neither side has a true threat at wide receiver (thanks to Panthers wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin’s season ending injury).

Furthermore, Carolina’s defense has been likened to the infamous ‘Legion of Boom’, as Panthers cornerback Josh Norman is becoming a force throughout the NFL. This season Norman is putting himself in contention for both a Pro Bowl selection and NFL Defensive Player of the year award with two tackles for a loss, ten passes defended and four interceptions, two of which he returned for touchdowns. He, alongside a front seven which has former NFL Defensive Rookie and Defensive Player of the Year Luke Kuechly, a rejuvenated Thomas Davis and immensely powerful Kawann Short have the Carolina’s defense playing well this season. They have combined for a devastating 114 tackles, 8 sacks and 2 forced fumbles through six games. Despite Cam Newton’s inconsistency (two interceptions and 55% completion rate against Seattle), this defense proved they can provide the perfect balance for a Carolina team seeking only their second trip to the Super Bowl.. But can Newton and this Panthers team continue to be relevant deep into January?

Their undefeated record thus far would suggest yes, however they have yet to face a team with a record above .500, which makes evaluating their chances against teams such as the Packers, New England Patriots and Cincinnati Bengals difficult. Yes, they pulled of an exquisite comeback against the Seahawks in Week Six, but the Bengals also did the same just a week before. The Patriots just came back to defeat a New York Jets team which is playing really well under Todd Bowles, and Green Bay took down the San Diego Chargers despite quarterback Phillip Rivers putting up over 500 yards passing. So many of the undefeated teams in the league have shown the same resilience which Carolina showed in Week Six.

Weeks eight and nine will provide real tests for the Carolina Panthers, as Newton will battle two top five quarterbacks in Andrew Luck and Aaron Rodgers. If the Panthers can go into week 10 at 9-0 or 8-1 then I think they must be seriously considered as the team which can represent the NFC at Levi’s Stadium in Super Bowl 50. Not only would defeating the Packers mean that the Panthers would be the undisputed top seed in the NFC, but it would almost guarantee that Cam Newton would be considered a candidate for the NFL MVP, alongside the unstoppable Tom Brady.

It’s commonly thought amongst both fans and analysts that Tom Brady’s Patriots are poised for a second consecutive Super Bowl appearance, and many expect Brady and Belicheck to claim their fifth ring. Considering the way that the Pats have started the year, having scored less than 30 points only once so far this season it almost seems illogical to try and argue that they aren’t the “team to beat”. Nevertheless the Panthers have come to close to a Super Bowl appearance too many times since Newton and Kuechly entered the league, and if they reach the Bay Area on February 7th, I feel as though this team possesses the necessary tools to claim the organization’s first ring at Super Bowl 50.

The Panthers offense may be able to ride off of Newton’s elusiveness and sheer play-making ability as he continues to come into his own as the leader of the Panthers, and as he continues to display an ability to orchestrate game winning drives and complete a variety of throws, . If the defense continues to dominate like it has so far this season, then perhaps this team is capable of usurping the Seahawks and Packers and they just might be the team to beat in the NFC. And they just might possibly be the defending champions going into the 2016 season.

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