Saints vs. Panthers: Grades from the game

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

It's Tuesday, so here are your player grades from Pro Football Focus on the Panthers impressive win on Sunday.

Carolina has been winning games, but that doesn't necessarily mean Cam Newton has been grading out well. His season has been steady and reliable, often lacking the big meaningful plays that put a team on his back. That changed against New Orleans.

There weren't many surprises in Week 16, but lets break it down.

Three up

Luke Kuechly (+5.5)

Guess what happens when you record 24 tackles in a game? Pretty much this. Luke Kuechly was unstoppable on Sunday, and a large portion of the credit goes to the New Orleans Saints. They ran an extremely predictable offense branching out of the screen pass, and the Panthers made them pay.

I'm not sure if Kuechly deserves player of the year honors, but I just love watching him play.

Greg Hardy (+5.3)

Again, it's not taking anything away from the players -- but thank you New Orleans for playing Terron Armstead at LT. It was a total mess, and Hardy at his lunch all day long.

Hardy finished with nine total pressure. What a great game from the Kraken.

Cam Newton (+4.0)

Cam was pretty bad for a lot of the game, and Week 16 showed how much he relies on Steve Smith. Everything was defined by that final drive, arguably the best two minutes of Newton's three year career.

It was one of the team's most important games in history, and he delivered.

Three down

Nate Chandler (-3.5)

It is what it is.

He's doing the best he can out there, but this is a never ending pattern for Chandler. Since starting he amassed a -11.3 grade in seven games, including a -11.6 in pass blocking. I want him to take steps forward because the guy has been a trooper, but it's just not happening.

Byron Bell (-3.2)

Yep.

Charles Johnson (-2.3)

It was an off game for CJ where he really didn't get any push up front. He got three hurries, but his -2.0 pass rush grade was a disappointment given how much pressure Greg Hardy was getting on the other side.

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