NFL AM/PM: Panthers Stay On Top Of NFC


Panthers A Purrfect 10-0

100 percent of the time, the 2015 Carolina Panthers win all the time.

Carolina bettered their franchise best start to 10-0 after their 44-16 demolition over the Washington Redskins.

MVP candidate Cam Newton was brilliant on the day, completing 21 of 34 throws, for 246 yards with a career-best five touchdown passes and no interceptions.  Newton finished with a passer rating of 123.3, despite being the victim of numerous drops from his wide receivers.

Many still don’t believe that the Panthers are the best team in the NFC, but the numbers don’t lie. Carolina became the 16th team in the Super Bowl era to start 10-0, with all of them reaching the postseason and nine of those teams advancing to the Super Bowl.  Six of those nine have hoisted the Lombardi Trophy.

Still, the Panthers aren’t even impressed.

“They don’t give out trophies for the regular season,” tight end Greg Olsen, who caught three passes for 54 yards with a touchdown said.

Sure, a wide receiving corps consisting of Devin Funchess, Jericho Cotchery, Philly Brown and Brenton Bersin doesn’t strike fear into opposing defensive coordinators heads, but Cam Newton surely does.  Newton is hitting his stride, using better mechanics than at any point in his career and he has taken his game to an entirely new level.

“I have labelled myself as a pocket passer with the ability to run,” Newton said.

Whatever Newton wants to label himself is fine.  Right now the only label that counts in the “undefeated” affix, and that’s due to the former first-overall pick’s stellar play.

AFC South Backups Come Up Big

The AFC South has been the laughing stock of the NFL this season, as the Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans entered Sunday with a share of the division lead with matching 4-5 records.

The losing figured to continue, as both the Colts and Texans were matched up against winning teams, the Atlanta Falcons and New York Jets respectively, with Indianapolis traveling to the Georgia Dome.

To make matters worse, Indy and Houston were playing with backup quarterbacks, as Andrew Luck and Brian Hoyer were out.

The Indianapolis Colts twice overcame 14-point defecits to top the Atlanta Falcons on the road, 24-21.  Backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck shook off a pair of early interceptions to lead the Colts back for the victory.  Hasselbeck completed 23 of 32 passes, for 213 yards, with a pair of touchdowns to go along with his two interceptions.

Hasselbeck led his Colts offense into Falcons territory, where another remarkable veteran, kicker Adam Vinatieri knocked home a 43-yard field goal to complete the comeback.

“Matt, the old seasoned vet, is doing a fantastic job just winning games for us,” Vinatieri said after the game. “I feel very fortunate to have him leading us while Andrew is out.”

Joining the Colts at 5-5 were the Houston Texans, who used a pretty efficient performance from T.J. Yates to beat the New York Jets, 24-17.  Yates completed just 16 of 34 throws, but found DeAndre Hopkins for a pair of touchdowns, didn’t turn the ball over and was only sacked once to finish with a respectable quarterback rating of 89.0.

“To be able to move this ball effectively against this Jets defense, we were going to have to give them something that we hadn’t shown and I thought we did a good job of that,” Texans head coach Bill O’Brien said.

Sure, the AFC South teams have been pretty bad this season, but Indianapolis has won two straight games, Houston has won three straight games and the Jacksonville Jaguars have won two in a row and three out of their last four games.

There may not be a team in the division that wins 10 games, but they are peaking at the right time and aside from name brands, what is really the difference between the AFC South and NFC East?

Injury Watch

It was another day for high profile injuries across the NFL as starting quarterbacks and running backs went down.

  • The biggest injury of the day was of course Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, who will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL.  The hope in Baltimore is that the former Super Bowl MVP will be ready for the start of training camp.
  • In the same game, Ravens running back Justin Forsett broke his arm in two places and will also miss the rest of the season.
  • Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman was off to a great start against the Indianapolis Colts before suffering a concussion that kept him out for the rest of the game.  He will enter the league’s concussion protocol and his status for next week’s game against the Minnesota Vikings is up in the air.
  • Speaking of concussions, New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis suffered one in Sunday’s 24-17 loss to the Houston Texans.
  • In the same game, Jets center Nick Mangold suffered a laceration in his hand that required stitches and forced him to leave the game.
  • St. Louis Rams quarterback Case Keenum likely suffered a concussion late in the team’s 16-13 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.  Somehow, Keenum ducked the protocol and didn’t miss a single snap despite looking extremely woozy.
  • Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch missed Sunday’s 29-13 victory over the San Francisco 49ers, and will visit a sports hernia specialist in Philadelphia to take a look at his abdominal region.  Lynch could be placed on IR if things don’t go well.

About Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein is the managing football editor for Football Insiders and has covered the NFL for over a decade.  Charlie has hosted drive time radio for NBC and ESPN affiliates in different markets around the country, along with being an NFL correspondent for ESPN Radio and WFAN.  He has been featured on the NFL Network as well as Sirius/XM NFL Radio and has been published on Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, ESPN as well as numerous other publications.