The past four seasons have been somewhat back and forth for Carolina Panthers Cam Newton. He has made the playoffs in two years, and missed in the other two, while some of his stats have fluctuated as well. His 2015 season was spectacular, as he led his team to a 15-1 record and a Super Bowl appearance, along with being named as a first team All-Pro and NFL MVP. It has been difficult to live up to that career season, as his interception total has increased each year since then, and his total passing yards have also decreased. The career stats so far beg the question: Will we be seeing another down year from Newton?
Likely coincidentally, Newton has seemed to perform better in odd numbered years. He has made the Pro Bowl in 2011, 2013, and 2015, and made the playoffs in 13, 15, and 17. He had a decent 2017, despite the receiver issues with the team, something they addressed with the first round pick of DJ Moore, and getting a healthy Greg Olsen back from a broken foot will definitely help. The team did not have winning records in 2012, 14 or 16, but they did make the playoffs (and even won a game) in 2014, despite their 7-8-1 record. Carolina might have benefited from some luck in 2017, as they were 8-1 in one-possession games, not including the playoff game in New Orleans.
The Panthers play the twelfth-toughest schedule in 2018, so Newton will need to be on his game to get Carolina back to the playoffs. They also play in the NFC South, which sent three teams to the playoffs in 2017, although the division couldn’t make a third straight Super Bowl appearance. As for Newton, the trend so far is that he’ll have a bit of a down year, but it feels like this might be the year he breaks the trend.
Christian McCaffrey has a year of experience under his belt, Torrey Smith might be better than most receivers they had last season, and Norv Turner should have success with a fast-paced offense. They had the seventh ranked total defense last season as well, and were third in rushing yards allowed.
All in all, Carolina has the tools they need to be successful, and with a solid season from Newton, could be in good shape for a deep playoff run. After this season, Newton will be 30-years old, and the number of hits he takes due to his running ability will eventually begin to take a toll. His rushing attempts jumped from 90 in 2016 to 139 last season, and his average attempts per year are closer to last season, at 122. Even for a quarterback as good at rushing the ball as Newton, that’s a lot of extra hits to take every year. It will be interesting to see how he holds up as he gets older, but right now, it looks like that 2015 season could be an outlier in an otherwise good, but not Hall of Fame worthy career.