For the last two years, they've been the Queen City conundrum, but it looks like the Carolina Panthers might finally be on their way in 2013. Cam Newton came to town in 2011 and gave the city a jolt with his flashy play and his electrifying runs from the quarterback position. In year three, he's still the premiere player, but his role as a passer has been lessened. You normally don't want to suppress a talent like that, but this might be what the doctor ordered. Mike Shula has turned Newton into a game manager – who can make the big plays.
The Panthers sit at 3-3 and are only two games back of the Saints. Maybe they don't win the division, but the NFC wild card picture is so muddled halfway through the season. Why not Carolina?
Newton doesn't have off the charts passing numbers, but his 95.0 rating is far and away the highest of his career. The 7th ranked run game keeps the offense on schedule, and the defense is led by a MAN at the middle linebacker spot in Luke Kuechly. They're ranked 3rd, and they keep the games close when offense sputters.
By the end of the day Thursday, I completely expect Carolina to be within a game and a half of New Orleans. The schedule doesn't get any easier, but going 4-3 against the hapless Buccaneers would be a good start.
Hashim Horne, NFL junkie