The Panthers’ lousy start has got worse – and now Cam Newton is hurt

Video cam newton avoids hit.superbowl 50 gif.com

Back in January, the Carolina Panthers and the Arizona Cardinals faced each other in the NFC Championship game for the right to represent their conference in the Super Bowl. After what happened on Sunday, a playoffs rematch looks highly unlikely. On Sunday both teams saw their records fall to 1-3 following brutal losses where they lost their franchise quarterbacks, at least temporarily, to possible concussions.

Arguably no single player is more important to his team than Cam Newton is for the Panthers. So, when Newton suffered a head injury during a failed two-point conversion attempt, it didn’t bode well for their already slim chances against the red-hot Atlanta Falcons. The Panthers replaced the reigning MVP with Derek Anderson, who last started in 2014.

To be fair to the surprisingly-not-retired Anderson, he did throw two touchdowns in about 10 minutes of game time (along with two interceptions). Also, it also might not have mattered even if Newton played for the entire game: the Falcons absolutely feasted on the Panthers’ defense, racking up numbers in record-setting fashion. Quarterback Matt Ryan threw for 503 yards, a Falcons record, and four touchdowns. Meanwhile, Julio Jones went off for 300 receiving yards, not just a Falcons single-game record but the sixth highest yardage game ever for a wide receiver.

The Falcons won 48-33, improving their record to 3-1. No other team in the NFC South, including the Panthers, has won more than once. It’s early, but the Panthers have already lost ground, and it’s going to be very difficult to make it up if Newton isn’t at least close to the player he was last season.

Newton’s concussion diagnosis reduces the likelihood of that happening, especially since he’s already taken some hard hits to the head this season. The Panthers were already heavily criticized for leaving their star quarterback in the game during their season opener against the Denver Broncos. Newton suffered several hits to the head which noticeably affected his playing ability and, as Newton would admit in his post-game comments, had caused at least some memory loss. Despite all this, the team and player insisted that he had passed the concussion protocol.

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This time around, Newton did not pass the test, making his status a huge question mark. Newton could return just fine next game and look like his fantasy football breaking self. It’s also possible that he could miss considerable playing time or that he returns but isn’t quite the same player. One expects, or at least hopes, that the Panthers, learning from the week one fiasco, proceed with an abundance of caution.

The same goes for the Cardinals and Carson Palmer,. Palmer was taken off the field after taking a sack in the fourth quarter of a 17-13 loss to the should-be-dreadful-on-paper LA Rams. Palmer doesn’t have the same recent history of head injuries that Newton does, but the 36-year-old veteran has been through more career-threatening health issues than maybe any other active player. The Cardinals are going to need to be careful with him.

At the very least, it’s hard to imagine the team’s medical staff clearing him in time for Thursday’s game against the San Francisco 49ers. It feels a little cruel that the Cardinals have to play again so soon after this painful (in all ways) loss, but maybe the quick turnaround will help them losing to a team that didn’t score its first touchdown until week three.

Quote of the week

“I missed 40 meetings? I owned up to the only one I missed. Clearly I’m America’s most hated. None of my teammates would say anything like that. Everything between us is nothing but love.”

– Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant on reports that he missed as many as 40 team meetings.

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Bryant is in trouble with the Cowboys for missing a scheduled MRI last Tuesday, the wide receiver ended up being diagnosed with a hairline knee fracture the next day, along with other mandatory meetings. While “America’s most hated” is a classic Bryant line, one of his teammates should inform him that Colin Kaepernick has (unwittingly) stolen than dubious title from him.

Stat of the week

Zero. That’s the number of points the New England Patriots scored against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. It was the first time the Patriots had been shutout at home since 28 November 1993. It turns out that Jacoby Brissett was not, in fact, an adequate replacement for Tom Brady. Still, the Patriots can’t complain too much about going 3-1 during Brady’s four week suspension.

Fantasy player of the week

Julio Jones, wide receiver, Atlanta Falcons. Yes, we know we mentioned Jones’s 12 reception, 300-yard game earlier in this column but it’s one of those feats that deserves to be mentioned twice.

Gif of the week

That was the smoothest move we saw from a non-professional on Sunday. What was the least smooth, you ask? Well this:

Elsewhere around the league

The Chicago Bears have finally won a game! They beat the Detroit Lions 17-14. Crazier still, it was the Bears’ first home win in nearly a full calendar year. So congratulations Chicago, you’re officially out of “the worst team in the NFL right now” conversation. For now.

Also out of that conversation: the New Orleans Saints. The Saints picked up their first win of the season despite being down 13 points to the San Diego Chargers with 7 minutes left in regulation. Then Chargers fumbled twice, on two consecutive drives, and in each case the Saints were able to recover the ball and eventually score a touchdown. Thanks to these giveaways, New Orleans ended up winning 35-34.

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Just from the way they lost that game against New Orleans, you would think that the 1-3 Chargers would have established themselves as the worst team in the league right now. However, the standings will show that it’s the Cleveland Browns, who dropped to 0-4 after Washington beat them 31-20, making them the NFL’s sole remaining winless team. Don’t feel too bad Cleveland, there’s only a few more weeks until the NBA starts up again.

This weekend saw several undefeated teams fall to the wayside. As we mentioned, the Bills blanked the Patriots in their last Brady-less game of the season (assuming that he doesn’t get hurt and/or does something to embarrass Roger Goodell again). Later, the Oakland Raiders were able to just barely pull off a 28-27 victory over the Baltimore Ravens, dropping their record to 3-1.