Dave Choate: You guys are undefeated. Tell me how that feels, and how long you expect it to continue.
Jaxon: Being undefeated is nice for sure but I think what I like the most is having confidence in my team, even when down a couple scores. Knowing that you are never really out of a game, that late in the 4th quarter your offense can drive for that winning score, that your defense can hold a lead when they have too. That part is what took a while to get used too. I don't expect the Panthers to go undefeated and not that really worried about it. We just want home field advantage. We may not lose this week at home but I expect to lose one of the two remaining road games, either to the Giants or Falcons. The final game at home against the Bucs could be tough if they are fighting for a playoff spot and we have clinched home field. We will probably pull some starters.
Dave Choate: Cam Newton is very difficult to stop, obviously. If I'm running the Falcons' defense (and thank goodness I'm not), what do I do to force him to stay in the pocket and make tough throws?
Jaxon: Yeah that is the million-dollar question. You have to stop the run first and force third and long and then play tight man coverage. One key has been the success of throwing deep on play action. If you can avoid the Panthers connecting on the deep pass you can force some punts. The offense has managed to keep drives alive so many different ways it's really hard to spell a formula for success. Hope Newton has a bad day?
Dave Choate: josh Norman has had a ton of success against Julio Jones. Will he shadow Julio this Sunday, and what are your expectations for Jones' line?
Jaxon: Norman has been a revelation. I think he is easily the best CB in the league this season. He is very hard to throw over as he is remarkable tracking the ball and making plays on it. He did give up his first TD last week when he bit on a Brees pump fake but otherwise has locked down his man. When lining up on the outside Jones may get 2-3 catches for 20-30 total for the game. If the Falcons motion him to the slot like the Saints did Cooks last week then he could make some hay on newly acquired Cortland Finnegan.
Dave Choate: There have been a lot of surprises on this team. Can you tell us how the offensive line and secondary in particular have improved so much that you're currently 12-0?
Jaxon: Well you have really nailed the two biggest areas of improvement for us. Michael Oher has played well enough on the left side to give Cam time to throw. Yet the strength of the line has been the interior. Second year RG Trai Turner is a future Pro Bowler and UDFA LG Andrew Norwell has been exceptional. Ryan Kalil has played to his usual level so the only weakness has been RT Mike Remmers. He's played well enough but seems to get a lot of penalties. Rookie OT Daryl Williams is waiting in the wings though to assume the RT spot at some point.
The secondary has improved as Josh Norman has improved, in my opinion anyway. I'm not taking anything away from S Kurt Coleman, who is easily our best offseason signing. But I think his 6 INTs are a result of teams avoiding Norman and falling into some of the trap coverages we have been running.
The Finnegan signing has mitigated a huge weakness resulting from the Tillman injury. We had to use S Colin Jones in the slot and he was getting burned constantly. With Luke and Thomas Davis dropping into coverage on the underneath stuff the secondary has been playing well.
Dave Choate: Predictions for this game, the final NFC South standings, and the ultimate fate of the Panthers in 2015.
Jaxon: At this point anything short of the Super Bowl will be a disappointment. I'm hopeful for a 15-1 record, not 14-2 because if Arizona wins out they would win the tie breaker for home field.
In the NFCS I see final standings as Panthers, Bucs, Falcons, Saints.
In this next game the Falcons keep it close till the 4th quarter...
Panthers 37 Falcons 24