Carolina in my mind
Carolina, Newton own the NFC South; is the NFL next?
The Carolina Panthers have won just two more regular season games than the New Orleans Saints in the last five years (47-32-1 compared to 45-35), but the gulf between the two division rivals is no where near as close.
With their third division crown in as many years and an upcoming appearance in Super Bowl 50, Carolina is the power-player in the division. With the league’s top offense and a stout defense, they may not only be atop the division, but soon may own the NFL, too.
Cam Newton, a 26-year-old, 6’5,” 245-pound quarterback, who has been revolutionizing football since he burst on the scene in 2010, is the face of the Panthers’ franchise.
As a junior JUCO transfer, he became a must-watch player, especially after his four second half touchdowns sparked Auburn, down 24-0 at half time, to a 28-27 Iron Bowl victory over Nick Saban’s Alabama, en route to winning the Heisman Trophy leading the Tigers to a National Championship.
In five years as a professional, he was the top overall draft pick and AP Rookie of the Year in 2011 and a Pro-Bowler in 2011, 2013, and 2015. In 78 regular season games, he has compiled 1,440 completions on 2,418 attempts (59.6 completion percentage), 18,263 yards, 127 touchdowns, 64 interceptions, and a career 88.3 QB rating.
This year, he became the first quarterback in league history to throw for 30 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in the same season, he tied Steve Young for most career rushing touchdowns by a QB – after just five seasons compared to Young’s 15 seasons, and is expected to be named NFL MVP.
While the Saints have and wouldn’t replace Drew Brees under center, there is no doubt that, without injury, New Orleans will need to find a new field general before Carolina. Brees, 36, is nearing the use by date of his career. He has a year left on his current contract, however, with $30 million due to Brees, it is highly likely that he and the team will sign him to a contact extension that will reduce his average annual pay, but keep him in black and gold for the next two to three years until he retires.
Meanwhile, Newton, a decade younger, is in the first year of a five-year, $103.8 million contract. Although his brash on-field persona is off-putting to some (and his antics against the Saints have been many), his enthusiasm is inspiring to many more. He wants to win. He wants to have fun. And he’s seemingly doing both. He trends to a younger audience, flush with disposable income, which is coveted by marketers.
Now Newton is ready to claim the NFL crown. The only thing standing in his way is the Denver Broncos, led by five-time NFL MVP and native New Orleanian Peyton Manning.
With the Super Bowl being played in the heart of Carnival season, local attention will be split from celebrating Bacchus, the Roman god of wine, to a clash of the football gods in a meeting that could be equal to the generational power shift of the Olympians overtaking the Titans.
NFC South Streak
The Carolina Panthers have won just two more regular season games than the New Orleans Saints in the last five years, but with three straight division crowns and an upcoming appearance in Super Bowl 50, Carolina is the power-player in the division and soon may soon sit atop the NFL, too.
Year Saints Panthers
2011 13-3 6-10
2012 7-9 7-9
2013 11-5 12-4
2014 7-9 7-8-1
2015 7-9 15-1
Total 45-35 47-32-1