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Cam Newton should be getting more credit for Carolina Panthers success

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Ahead of the NFL season, you would have been hard-pressed to find a single person who would have predicted that Cam Newton's Carolina Panthers would be 7-0 heading into week nine's matchup at home to the Green Bay Packers.

However, victory on Monday night at home to the Indianapolis Colts meant the Panthers reached that landmark for the first time in the history of the franchise, by picking up their eleventh regular season victory in a row including last season.

The elevation of Panthers quarterback Newton's game, coupled with his team's success this season, has vaulted him into the MVP conversation, but should he be getting even more credit?

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Expected to Struggle

Many people felt that Carolina may struggle this year after two successful seasons winning the NFC South division, when their primary weapon, Kelvin Benjamin, suffered an ACL injury in pre-season training that ruled him out for the entire year.

This has been one of the main factors as to why Newton's season to this point has been so impressive.

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Without Benjamin, Newton has receivers with very limited talent at his disposal, aside from Greg Olsen, his favourite target, who has progressed into one of the most reliable tight ends in the NFL.

No Weapons

His lack of high-class targets are a key reason why Newton's statistics do not compare well to other quarterbacks, as according to ESPN.com's statistics, Newton is 29th in passer rating amongst all quarterbacks and 26th in total quarterback rating.

Newton's passing statistics this season are incomparable to most other NFL quarterbacks because his usage rate is so low due to Carolina's old-fashioned, run-first offense, so the stats remain relatively unimportant as, when it matters most, Newton has come up with the goods.

Playing away at last season's Super Bowl runners-up the Seattle Seahawks three weeks ago, a team renowned for their success at home, Newton led Carolina on a huge fourth-quarter comeback by completing 12 of his 15 passes in the final period, including throwing the winning touchdown to Greg Olsen with 32 seconds remaining.

It is Newton's leadership that now shines through as much as his play. In previous seasons, even winning ones, he would sit on the sideline with a towel over his head looking disinterested about the game or sulking if things were going against him.

But now, at age 26, he appears to have matured and grown into his role and taken on the responsibility which comes with being the franchise quarterback, and sees the game a different way, particularly after he was incredibly fortunate to escape a serious car crash with minor injuries midway through the 2014 season.

Blessed with immense physical ability, the Panthers quarterback is the perfect dual-threat, who can beat a defence with both his arm and his legs.

In the first two years of his career, Newton relied a little too heavily on his rushing threat, although utilising it to good effect, including breaking the record for most NFL rushing touchdowns in a season for a quarterback in his rookie year.

But since the 2013 season he has learnt to pick and choose particular situations in which to run the ball to ensure he is hit less by defensive players, which happened regularly early in his career.

Tom Brady is the runaway favourite to win MVP, but should it be much closer?

Brady is putting up incredible statistics that are more than worthy of winning the award but is producing at that high level with far better receivers, with his team's defense still at an average level.

On the contrary, Newton is aided by his team having one of the best defenses in the league, but that does not have a huge impact on what he is able to do on the offensive side of the ball, and the ability he has shown to bring the players surrounding him to a higher level should surely count for something?

For now, he must concentrate on this weekend, with the Packers at second-place behind Carolina in the NFC, a win this Sunday could all but guarantee the Panthers a playoff spot and take them one step closer to a first-round bye in the playoffs, and maybe edge Newton even closer to the MVP award.

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Topics:
Carolina Panthers
Cam Newton
NFL

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