There is nothing as annoying as praise garnered before it is earned. Cam Newton is a living, breathing example of that.
I don't care what he did in college or about the reputation he earned off-the-field. I don't care that he's a supremely physically gifted quarterback, a Michael Vick with more rushing power. What I care about is that Newton is a terrific runner and only a slightly above average quarterback right now.
The man has thrown 23 touchdowns versus 22 interceptions in his career, with a completion percentage just over 60%. This season, he's thrown just touchdowns against five interceptions, and no less an authority than Steve Smith called him out for being immature. It has been, to put it charitably, a bit of a down season for Newton.
Time and time again, players are overhyped coming into the NFL, lavished with accolades for playing slightly above average and wind up with huge egos. I think the simplest explanation for Newton's struggles this year boil down to this: The NFL has tape on him, he hasn't played with a ton of hunger and he's played some aggressive defenses.
I fully expect Newton to have a long and fruitful career, but I'll be glad if his slow start gets the elite talk swirling around him to die down a little. I'm sure most of you would agree with that.
Now that I've taken time to rant against Newton, it's time to get to the purpose of this post. Newton is still scary.
Newton Is The Crux
The Panthers are only going to win if Cam Newton plays well. Their defense is in shambles. The ground game can't possibly win the whole game by itself. That leaves Newton and the passing game, and they will single-handedly swing Week 4 for the Panthers.
When he's on, Newton is scary. He has the cannon arm, pocket presence and running ability to alter the course of the game. Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell are useful weapons. When he's off, however, Newton turns the ball over, makes bad decisions and tunes out his teammates. The Falcons need the latter, obviously.
Fortunately, the Falcons will be prepared, and they should be able to confuse Newton with the unique looks Mike Nolan has developed for the defense. If they could take Peyton Manning out of the game for a half and Philip Rivers out for a full four quarters, they can pump the brakes on Cam.
If they don't, it might be a long day against a Newton who would sorely like to prove his poor three game start was a fluke.
Your thoughts about Newton?