The Carolina Panthers pulled off a heartwarming upset in wacky Week 10, besting the Arizona Cardinals by a convincing final score of 34-10. What was perhaps even more surprising and unexpected than the final result was the debut (re-debut?) of Cam Newton in Carolina.
Newton, who had signed with the Panthers less than 72 hours before Sunday's contest against Arizona, was active and shockingly took the field for nine entertaining snaps against an unprepared Cardinals defense. The former MVP made the most of a limited role by rushing for a touchdown and tossing another to the struggling Robby Anderson. The Panthers wisely gave Newton the time to settle in and learn offensive coordinator Joe Brady’s offensive scheme, a new and unfamiliar system to Newton. Sunday’s simple package of plays were brilliantly designed and implemented, and it may now be time for Newton to spread his wings.
Head coach Matt Rhule, who slickly and meticulously never ruled out Newton being available in Week 10, has now all but confirmed that Newton will serve as Carolina's starting quarterback for their Week 11 showdown against the Washington Football Team, who are led by Newton's former head coach, Ron Rivera.
We will be following Newton's first start back in Carolina with terrific intrigue. Several oddsmakers have placed the statistical expectations at 1.5 touchdown passes and 37.5 rushing yards. Newton will almost certainly surpass the rushing yards mark, and we envision the dual-threat quarterback accounting for multiple touchdowns on Sunday, combining his arm with his legs.
Carolina’s very own Superman will encounter an underperforming Washington defense that just lost its star pass rusher Chase Young for the season. Washington admittedly performed admirably in Sunday’s shocking trouncing over Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but they’ve been wholly underwhelming as a unit throughout nine contests. Despite featuring a plethora of defensive talent at every area of the field, Jack Del Rio’s defense is currently allowing opposing offenses to rack up an astonishing 376.4 yards per game. It represents a plus matchup for Newton, who will have a healthy and reinvigorated Christian McCaffrey in the backfield. On the flip side, it signals a difficult assignment for a Washington defense that is now tasked with picking itself up in the absence of their star defender.
How familiar Newton is with Carolina's offense compared to this time a week ago will help Rhule and Brady decide how much of their playbook is available to him on Sunday. There may be kinks to iron out on the fly, but watching Newton return to Charlotte to serve as Carolina's starting signal-caller is going to make for an enthralling exercise. It's one that has an excellent chance of ending fondly for Newton.