The season is drawing to an end and hopefully, Carolina finishes on a strong note. Before too long we will be debating on who the Panthers should sign, draft and cut. While I look forward to reading all the opinions of fellow CSR members and monitoring team activity during the off season, right now I want discuss a few things that I have noticed over the past few weeks regarding both the team and the league itself.
I will start with the home team and mention just how much I was impressed with the team overall. In regards to that game, something was mentioned during the broadcast about the "three headed monster" that is Carolina's running game. While its a given that neither DeAngelo Williams or Jonathan Stewart will rush for 1,000 yards it is worth mentioning just how effective they have been to this team. It seems that since the bye week, they have been coming into their own which has translated into a better second half record. It got me thinking. Are personal stats and accolades more important than team success? Given the nature of Cam Newton, Stewart amd Williams, I would have to say they value team success. Newton has voiced that concern more than once. He wants to win...personal achievements be damned. Let's look at the stats:
Newton: 674 yards on 120 attempts 14 rushing TDs
Williams: 783 yards on 148 attempts 7 TDs
Stewart: 682 yards on 133 attempts 3 TDs
You take those rushing statistics and put them with the passing game and suddenly not only is the offense balanced but its very effective and dangerous. However, we all know this. My point is this and I think everyone would agree. The front office needs to keep these three together. Stewart needs to be resigned to a longer deal and if these guys keep putting up similar numbers like this year, not only will the offense be a force but the wear and tear on Williams and Stewart will be limited. Imagine that...having an effective running back over the age of 30 with a lot of miles left.
Here is what I saw, this is what I think....
- If there is any doubt about what kind of QB Cam Newton is, all that has been laid to rest. I loved his comments during the post game interview. I can't quote his exact words but to summarize, the personal achievements and records are nice to have, but he wants to win games and take this team to a championship. A lot of rookies say it, Newton is one of the few actually trying to make good on his word.
- Did anyone else see how animated and excited the Panthers' sideline was during the fourth quarter against the Bucs last Sunday? It was nice to see the team having fun and enjoying themselves. It was even more impressive to see Newton off the bench and mingling with his teammates.
- Panthers vs Eagles in the playoffs? While it won't happen this season, both Eagles QB Michael Vick and Panthers WR Steve Smith spoke on the NFL network last week and were very receptive to the possibility. Vick is a huge Newton fan and thinks he will take the game and the position to another level. Once again, paraphrasing.
- Richie Brockel needs to be re-signed after the season ends. I think he is a decent TE with FB capabilities to give the offense an option or two during games. If Jeremy Shockey isn't resigned, then please lets bring this guy back.
- It looks like the Panthers may be picking in the top ten of next April's draft. While it's still too early to say who will be there or how a player's stock will fare in my opinion, Carolina needs to address the O-line if the player is there. If not, address the need for CB and hopefully, draft Dre Kirkpatrick from Alabama.
Around the League
I honestly feel the conferences need to be realigned. My reasoning has to do with this: too often are division winners making the playoffs with sub-par records (Seahawks last year 7-9) over teams who can't win their division but have a great season (Bucs 10-6). The same thing could happen this year but in a different way. Wild card teams like the Falcons and Lions will have better records than the NFC East champ whether it is New York or Dallas. If their can't be a realignment, then how about chaning the playoff format and designate seeds based on records vs champion/wild card. I think its crap seeing a visiting team with a better record than the host.
There is a very good chance that the St. Louis Rams get the number one overall pick this year and not the Colts depending on what happens in Week 17. If that were to happen, do the Rams draft Luck? I believe Sam Bradford is still a quality QB but has been limited due to poor pass protection and inadequate receivers. Plus, he is still young enough to groom and become a decent passer. The Rams do have the benefit of putting together an impressive package if they do choose Luck but in the end if the Rams do pick first and take the Stanford product, Bradford's days in St. Louis could be numbered.
By the Numbers
3 - The number of wins the Panthers have in the month of December as well as against their AFC opponents.
4 - The number of wins the Panthers have earned since the bye
25 - Rushing TDs Carolina has on the season (leads NFL)
21 - Teams who have fewer rushing TDs on the year than Cam Newton (14)
That is it for this blog. I hope everyone has a great New Year and we get a huge win in the Superdome against those dirty Saints. Take care and as always....GO PANTHERS!