Thursday, September 29, 2011

Newton is Top Rookie

The first of what will likely be a truckload of honors for Cam Newton this season rolled in on Thursday, as he was named the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Month for September. Hands down, the top rookie in the league over the first 3 weeks of the season. This just in: Newton is good. At least as good as advertised, if not better. Congrats to him, and the rest of the offense for getting him some run.

Panthers facing Chicago in week 4, and this one promises to be a good one. If Carolina has done nothing else, they have shown that they will compete until the gun sounds at the end of the 4th quarter. They were finally rewarded with a win against Jacksonville, and Carolina hopes it can be cyclical.

Back to the previous blog post--I stand by my prediction, the Panthers could have blown the Jaguars up, had it not been for a monsoon. It was like the storm cloud floated to the stadium, saw the game, and decided it would be fun to watch. Jacksonville's lone touchdown came during the driving rain in the 2nd quarter. Give Blaine Gabbert credit for being able to make that throw in that soup. Head Coach Ron Rivera would later say his team needed to defend that kind of play better.

When it comes to Chicago, stopping Matt Forte will be key, and keeping Jay Cutler uncomfortable will also be paramount. Offensively, Carolina has to contend with Julius Peppers up front, which is an all day job. Look for the Panthers to allow Peppers to over-pursue, and try to hurt Chicago with dump-offs to running backs.

Carolina also has to pay particularly close attention in special teams with Devin Hester returning punts. Makes for a long afternoon if you have to punt to Hester all afternoon, but keep this in mind: the Panthers have proven they can move the football, and if they are able to do that, run the clock to their advantage, Carolina has as good a chance as any to win this one.

Having to make a prediction: Give me Carolina 20-17 over Chicago.

Quick NASCAR hit, can anyone stop Tony Stewart? He's won both races to start the Chase, has the points lead, after starting off tied for 9th with 2000 points (all Chase drivers started with 2000 points, with 3 points added per regular season win). Heading into Dover, Stewart leads by just 7 points, but with the new system, 7 is nice. Not comfortable, but nice. Dover will be a key race in the Chase, but the true wildcard in the playoffs will come in Talladega, the week after the series runs at Charlotte.

Race prediction: This is the week the #48 teams gets on track to make a run at title number 6. Give me Jimmie Johnson on the Monster Mile.

Mike Solarte

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