NFL Week 7: Chicago Bears @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Chicago Bears @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sun. Oct. 23, 2011 1 p.m. EST

The NFC South division has become increasingly more competitive over the last few years with emergence of teams like the Atlanta Falcons and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. There is no question that Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints are the team to beat in the NFC South every single season, but things have gotten much tougher within the division as of late with the Falcons becoming a legitimate Super Bowl title contender and the Bucs being much better than anyone anticipated up to this point in the Josh Freeman era.

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Before last week’s win over the New Orleans Saints, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers looked like they were in serious danger of losing control of their season. With a devastating loss to the up-and-coming San Francisco 49ers in Week 5 (48-3), the Bucs looked lost on both sides of the football and saw running back LeGerette Blount go down with an injury that might keep him out the rest of the season.

Cheerleader in 2006 costume

Tampa Bay Cheerleader

Without Blount coming out of the backfield and the passing game not being sharp as it was last season, the Tampa Bay Bucs seemed like a team that had lost its mojo, but then came out last week and put on a show against the division-leading Saints. With a win over the Saints, the Bucs are right back in the hunt for the NFC South division title which makes every game from here on out a must-win situation for Josh Freeman and company.

In Week 7, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will have their work cut out for them for a third consecutive as they will be defending their home field against the Chicago Bears. Even though the Bears have struggled at times this season, especially on the offensive line, the boys from the Windy City are still a solid football team on both sides of the ball and always a tough team for any opponent.

Now that the NFC North division is being dominated by the undefeated Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers (6-0) and the up-and-coming Detroit Lions (5-1), the Chicago Bears best chance of making their way back into the postseason this time around is to clinch a playoff berth in the NFC Wild Card. With that being said, this game could be extremely important for Jay Cutler and company as they might be going head-to-head against the Bucs in the near future for the Wild Card.

As of right now, the Chicago Bears have been given the edge in this Week 7 matchup with a -1 point spread. Despite being on the road and still struggling to protect Pro Bowl quarterback Jay Cutler, the Bears are the favorites; which leaves me scratching my head.

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This game has the potential to be one of the best of the week, but in the end I believe the Bucs will get a second straight win at home.

Take the Bucs at +1.

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Oakland Raiders Jason Campbell to miss up to six weeks

There is no question after Week 6 that the Oakland Raiders are the real deal this season as they have now won four games in the first six weeks and already have half as many wins as they did last season. With the running game firing on all cylinders with Pro Bowler Darren McFadden leading the way and the defense playing much better than anticipated, the Raiders seem to be destined to compete for a playoff spot in the AFC Conference this season. Not only might they get back into the playoffs for the first time since 2002, but they have a great chance of competing for the AFC West division title with only the San Diego Chargers standing in their way.

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In Week 6, the Oakland Raiders were able to make easy work of another up-and-coming team in the Cleveland Browns, but it came at a cost as they have now lost starting quarterback Jason Campbell to a broken collarbone. The injury has not ruled Campbell out for the season, but he could miss about six weeks since the injury will require surgery.

With no real viable backup in Oakland since the Raiders have no faith in Kyle Boller or rookie Terrelle Pryor, the storied franchise has already started looking elsewhere for a short-term and possibly long-term replacement for Jason Campbell.

SAN DIEGO - DECEMBER 05:  Quarterback Jason Ca...

Jason Campbell

Before this NFL regular season began, the Oakland Raiders were considering making a move to bring in another quarterback since big-name like Kevin Kolb (Arizona Cardinals), Donovan McNabb (Minnesota Vikings), Alex Smith (San Francisco 49ers) and Carson Palmer (Cincinnati Bengals) were reportedly up for grabs. Obviously, three out of these four either found new teams or stayed where they were, but Carson Palmer was the exception.

Reportedly, the Oakland Raiders have shown interest in three veteran quarterbacks thus far. The first quarterback the Raiders were courting was former Jacksonville Jaguars longtime gunslinger David Garrard who has been looking for the right place to land since being released before the season began.

Unfortunately, Garrard just had surgery to repair a herniated disk and will be unavailable to sign. It is a shame that the timing didn’t work out because Garrard might have been the perfect fit in Oakland. Now that Garrard is off the table, the Raiders have reached out to free agent Josh McCown and have gone after Carson Palmer.

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The best option now for the Oakland Raiders is Carson Palmer since the Cincinnati Bengals seem content with rookie quarterback Andy Dalton who has played much better than anticipated in his first year in the NFL, but the Bengals still seem reluctant to let Palmer go up to this point. With Bengals owner Mike Brown still standing firm about not trading Carson Palmer since he did live up to his end of the bargain, the Raiders acquiring the former Heisman trophy winner and California boy might be a longshot, but now it is a reality.

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NFL Week 6: Dallas Cowboys @ New England Patriots

No team in the NFL has been more criticized over the last two seasons than the Dallas Cowboys. With arguably one of the most talented squads on both sides of the football, the Cowboys have been under tremendous pressure to produce a winning football team and contend for a Super Bowl title, but they just haven’t been able to live up to their high expectations.

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Despite being in third place in the NFC East division standings coming into Week 6, the Dallas Cowboys do have a shot at redemption this week as they will face off against a very good New England Patriots offense. If the Cowboys can pull off a win in Week 6, the pressure will be lifted for at least one week as they will have proven they can contend and beat one of the best teams in the NFL.

As it always seems to these days, all the pressure will be on quarterback Tony Romo to get this team going in Week 6. With all the blame being directed at Romo for the Cowboys slow start, the veteran gunslinger will have to have a good performance in Week 6 in order to quite his critics and get his team back on track.

Tony Romo #9 quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys

Tony Romo #9

With a 2-2 record and coming off a much-needed bye week in order to get players like Miles Austin and Dez Bryant back to 100%, the Dallas Cowboys will have no excuses on Sunday as they will have to go into a hostile territory and get the best one of the best quarterbacks in the league. With Tom Brady having another MVP caliber season under center for the Patriots, New England has been nearly impossible to stop on offense this season as the three-time Super Bowl champion has been surgical the way he has torched opposing defenses.

Despite the defenses for both teams needing to step up in this matchup in order to cool off the potent offenses, the attention will be on the offensive side of the football in what could potentially be the highest scoring game of the week. This will no doubt be a game in which the defense takes a backseat and the offenses reign supreme.

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The return of Pro Bowl wide receiver Miles Austin should be a much-needed boost for Tony Romo and company, but I’m not sure it will be enough to lead them to victory over a New England Patriots team that has only truly been challenged once this season (loss to Buffalo Bills). It will be all about the fourth quarter for the Dallas Cowboys in this game with the football in Tony Romo’s hands. If Romo can play up to his potential in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys have a great chance of pulling off the slight upset.

As of right now, the New England Patriots are favored to come out on top in this matchup with a -7 point spread. Even though I believe the Dallas Cowboys could win this game, the Patriots are a safe bet with this spread.

Take the Patriots -7.

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Terrelle Pryor has five-game ban lifted heading into Week 6

Terrelle Pryor has 5 game ban lifted and is ready for week 6

The Oakland Raiders have gotten off to a good start once again this season with three wins in their first five games. Not only are the Raiders a much improved team on the offensive side of the football with running back Darren McFadden not missing a beat and quarterback Jason Campbell playing much better than anticipated under center, but the Raiders defense seems to be for real this season despite losing arguably their best player in cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha (Philadelphia Eagles).

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With the offense firing on all cylinders and the defense holding leads against potent offenses, the Oakland Raiders could be headed for their first playoff appearance since 2002 when they made it all the way to the Super Bowl. Now that the Raiders have become a force to be reckoned with in the AFC West division and the AFC Conference for that matter, this team seems to be on the rise in the NFL, but they did suffer a major loss last week when longtime owner and NFL innovator Al Davis died at the age of 82.

Terrelle Pryor has 5 game ban lifted.

Terrelle Pryor

Regardless of how people may feel about Al Davis personally, the controversial owner played a big part in the NFL being what it is today and will be sorely missed. With the loss of Davis fresh in the players’ minds, the Raiders will almost certainly come out in Week 6 against the Cleveland Browns full of emotion and ready to give their fans in the Bay Area another win on the season.

As if the death of Al Davis wasn’t enough of a storyline heading into this showdown with Colt McCoy and company in Week 6, the Oakland Raiders will also get rookie quarterback Terrelle Pryor back from his five-game ban. There is no telling how head coach Hue Jackson expects to use him at this point, but the addition of an athlete like Terrelle Pryor is definitely a boost for an offense that has really come on strong this season.

At this point in time, the Raiders seem pretty content with quarterback Jason Campbell as the starter under center, but with Terrelle Pryor coming into the fold the quarterback controversy in the Bay Area might be brewing if the veteran gunslinger starts to struggle this week. Like many young quarterbacks in the league today like Cam Newton (Carolina Panthers) and Tim Tebow (Denver Broncos), Terrelle Pryor is a constant threat with his legs and could be very useful for the Raiders in the near future.

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As I said before, the Oakland Raiders are playing pretty well right now and Jason Campbell has been impressive thus far or at least better than expected (1,118 yards, 6 TDs and 4 INTs), but the pressure will be on the veteran to continue to play well or he could get pulled just like Kyle Orton did last week in favor of the younger and more mobile Tim Tebow.

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NFL Week 5: Green Bay Packers @ Atlanta Falcons

Green Bay Packers @ Atlanta Falcons Sun. Oct. 9, 2011 8:20 p.m. EST

Throughout the first four weeks of the NFL regular season, the league has been dominated by offense with teams lighting up the scoreboards at a record-setting pace. With defense taking a backseat to potent offenses, teams around the league have had to adjust and one team that hasn’t missed a hitch has been the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers.

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Last season the Green Bay Packers were a very good football team because they had a high-scoring offense led by reigning Super Bowl MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers and a lockdown defense with up-and-comer Clay Matthews leading the way. This season the defense in Green Bay has taken a backseat to the Packers seemingly unstoppable offense, but so far that hasn’t posed much of a problem with Mike McCarthy’s squad being just one of two (Detroit Lions being the other) undefeated teams left in the NFL this season.

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan

Matt Ryan Atlanta Falcons

In Week 5, the Green Bay Packers will put their undefeated record on the line against quite possibly one of their toughest opponents yet in the Atlanta Falcons. Even though the Falcons haven’t really lived up to expectations this season with a disappointing 2-2 record thus far and a third place standing in the NFC South division, Matt Ryan and company are still a very talented football team on both sides of the ball and should give the Packers are run for their money this weekend at the Georgia Dome.

Last week the Atlanta Falcons were able to bounce back from their loss to the division rival Tampa Bay Buccaneers (16-13) in Week 3 with a win over the Seattle Seahawks, 30-28. Despite getting back on track with their second win of the season, the Falcons were by no means impressive in the win over the Seahawks. Not only did Atlanta barely survive to come out on top against Seattle, but this Falcons squad looks like they might have some problems to fix on both sides of the football in order to compete with the best of the best once again this season.

The only advantage the Atlanta Falcons coming into Week 5 against the defending Super Bowl champions is that they will be playing at home at the George Dome. Even though the Falcons have struggled on the road this season with a 1-2 record thus far, Atlanta is one of the best teams in the league when playing on their home field, especially with Matt Ryan under center.

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As of right now, the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers have been given the edge in this matchup with a -6 point spread. The Atlanta Falcons may still be a playoff contender and might be able to bounce back in the NFC South division to win their second straight division title, Matt Ryan and company won’t be able to compete with a Packers team that is firing on all cylinders right now.

Take the Packers at -6.

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Are the Philadelphia Eagles in trouble after 1-3 start?

The one team in the NFL that made more moves than any other in order to improve their squad on both sides of the football once the NFL lockout was over and done with was the Philadelphia Eagles. With a superstar quarterback leading the way in Michael Vick and an extremely talented roster of stars, the Eagles were considered to be instant Super Bowl title contenders and one of the best all-around team in the league.

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With all the added pressure of the Pro Bowl acquisitions like Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Vince Young and Ronnie Brown, the Eagles were put under the microscope right out of the gate when the NFL regular season began and they lived up to the hype by beating the St. Louis Rams in Week 1 in convincing fashion. The Rams were by no means stiff competition for the Eagles in Week 1, but they were thought to be a good test for this revamped squad.

Mike Vick with Philadelphia

Mike Vick

In Week 2, the Philadelphia Eagles were set to go head-to-head against Michael Vick’s former team in the Atlanta Falcons. This matchup was thought to be one of the Eagles toughest tests early in the season and they played well up until Vick went down with a concussion and had to sit out the fourth quarter. Even though Philly had the lead once Vick headed to the sidelines, the Eagles couldn’t hold on for the win as the Falcons pulled off the comeback and handed Philadelphia their first loss of the season.

The loss to the Atlanta Falcons was thought to be due to the fact that Michael Vick couldn’t finish the game and this didn’t worry many people in Philly since the Pro Bowler would be ready to take the field in Week 3 against the division rival New York Giants. Even though Vick was able to get back onto the field in Week 3 against the Giants, the Eagles offense was ineffective with the quarterback getting even more banged up with an injured right hand to go along with recovering from the concussion in Week 2.

Ultimately, the Philadelphia Eagles lost their second game of the season and first divisional game against a New York Giants team that was just as banged up if not more. This loss really started to turn heads in Philly as people started to question the coaching staff and the direction the team was going in, but things didn’t start to get really bad until the Eagles lost their third straight game against the San Francisco 49ers in front of their fans in Philadelphia.

Now that the Philadelphia Eagles are 1-3 and seem to be losing the confidence of quarterback Michael Vick who says that he isn’t getting any calls from the refs on late hits, this team seems to be falling apart and could be on the verge of some drastic changes. Vick did have a good game against the 49ers with 496 total yards (416 passing, 75 rushing) and two passing touchdowns, but it wasn’t enough to hold off a resilient San Francisco squad, 24-23.

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From here on out, head coach Andy Reid could be on the hot seat in Philadelphia with Eagles fans calling for his head. Reid is without a doubt one of the best coaches in the NFL today, but if he can’t turn this team around the longtime head coach will almost certainly lose his job.

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Could Terrell Owens return to the NFL sooner rather than later?

Last season the Cincinnati Bengals made a drastic move to improve the franchise offensively with the acquisition of future Hall-of-Famer Terrell Owens. With T.O. playing alongside perennial Pro Bowl wide receiver Chad Ochocinco, the consensus was that the Bengals offense would be one of the best in the NFL and Cincinnati could be playoff bound for the second straight season.

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Unfortunately, that didn’t turn out to be the case as the Cincinnati Bengals went from being the AFC North division champions to missing the playoffs entirely. Not only did the Bengals miss the playoffs, but they were arguably one of the worst teams in the league and seemed to be ready to go back to the drawing board to see what went wrong with a team that had so much talent.

CINCINNATI, OH - DECEMBER 05:  Terrell Owens #...

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Despite the Cincinnati Bengals missing the playoffs and no longer being dominant on the offensive side of the football, Terrell Owens had a very good season with his new team and showed his doubters that he could still contribute as one of the league’s best wide receivers. Even though T.O. was impressive with the Bengals, Cincinnati neglected to re-sign him for this season and that decision might have been the result of a serious knee injury.

With a torn ACL at 37-years of age, Terrell Owens wasn’t exactly a desirable free agent after the NFL lockout ended and was given no consideration from any team around the league. With that being said, T.O. has been doing everything within his power to get healthy and ready for at least half the season.

The perennial Pro Bowler might 37-years-old and by no means a primetime player in this league anymore, but he keeps his body in excellent shape and might be able to play this game until the age of 40 if he can stay healthy after rehabbing his knee.

Cincinnati Bengals helmet

Cincinnati Bengals

Reportedly, Terrell Owens will be headed to London, England to take part in festivities surrounding the annual regular-season game overseas. This is an interesting move by T.O., but might ultimately be a smart move considering that it will get his face out there and remind teams around the league that he is almost ready to return to the field.

There is no question that there are plenty of teams around the league that could use a Pro Bowl caliber player at the wide receiver position like Terrell Owens, but a lot of teams will be cautious to sign the aging star as it might be a little too risky to pick up a 37-year-old coming off a torn ACL.

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Along with showing his face in London, England, Terrell Owens has a released a second video with the former Cincinnati Bengals wideout working out. This video is meant to show just how well his rehab is going and that he will be ready sooner rather than later. In my opinion, T.O. will almost certainly get signed when he is ready to return, but whether or not he can contribute at a high level remains to be seen.

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Michael Vick breaks right hand in Week 3 loss to New York Giants

Last week all the Philadelphia Eagles fans in this country held their breath after seeing superstar quarterback Michael Vick go down with a concussion in the loss to his former team in the Atlanta Falcons. There was no question that Vick would suffer an injury at some point in this season as he has only completed a 16-game season once in his NFL career, but a lot of fans in Philly were hoping it wouldn’t be in Week 2 that he would already start getting banged up.

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Michael Vick Philadelphia Quarterback

Michael Vick - Broken Hand

Fortunately, Michael Vick was cleared to play in Week 3 against the division rival New York Giants, but it was basically the same story in the injury department after Vick went down with a broken right hand. Even though Vick is left handed, the Pro Bowl gunslinger wasn’t himself after the injury and as result the Philadelphia Eagles lost their second straight game of the season with a 29-16 loss to the Giants.

Not only does this loss hurt the Eagles’ chances of coming out on top of the always competitive NFC East division, but the offense just flat in Week 3 against the Giants. Along with the offense struggling without Vick, the defense also failed to live up to the hype as they were unable to contain Giants’ quarterback Eli Manning who threw for 254 yards and a career-high four touchdowns.

Personally, I believe the first two losses of the season for the Philadelphia Eagles are a fluke because the team wasn’t 100% healthy. Despite the fact that the Eagles are banged up, especially at the quarterback position with Michael Vick and Vince Young suffering from injuries, this team should get back to form sooner rather than later.

There is way too much talent on this football team on both sides of the ball for them to fail to be a playoff team this season. The one thing that needs to change in my opinion is the play calling from head coach Andy Reid and company. If Reid can figure out how to use Vick the right way and limit senseless injuries, the Eagles will flourish and quickly become one of the best all-around teams in the league.

Until that time, the Philadelphia Eagles are bound to struggle and are destined to suffer injuries that will keep them from reaching their potential. At this point in time, Michael Vick’s status for Week 4 against the San Francisco 49ers is uncertain, but considering the fact that his right hand is not part of his throwing arm, I believe he will be back on the gridiron next weekend.

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Even though I believe that Michael Vick has gotten the short end of the stick with his role in Philly due to the fact that he can’t get the protection or the calls from the refs for late hits, the Pro Bowler needs to learn how to adjust his game by throwing it away when in trouble and sliding when on the run. If Vick can master this like he did with his passing when arriving in Philly, the rest of the league will have no answer for him.

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NFL Week 3 – Green Bay Packers @ Chicago Bears

Green Bay Packers @ Chicago Bears Sun. Sept. 25, 2011 4:15 p.m. EST

After winning the Super Bowl in convincing fashion last year, the Green Bay Packers showed that they were without a doubt the best all-around football team in the NFL and could potentially have many promising years ahead with a young core of talented players on both sides of the football. A great test for the defending Super Bowl champions came right out of the gate against the New Orleans Saints in the NFL season opener and the Packers didn’t disappoint as they were able to dominate offensively and come away with their first win of the season.

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Green Bay Packers Football

Green Bay Packers

Despite getting their first win of the season with a virtually unstoppable offense led by reigning Super Bowl MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the Green Bay Packers weren’t as good as many people expected them to be on the defensive side of the football. With defensive superstars Charles Woodson and Clay Matthews leading the way, the Packers defense was considered to be one of the best in the NFL for the second straight season, but they have struggled against the Saints and most recently against rookie quarterback Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers.

In Week 3, the defending champs will have their work cut out for them for the third week in a row as they will head to the Windy City to take on the arch rival Chicago Bears. Even though the Bears showed some flaws in their game last week in the loss to the New Orleans Saints, Jay Cutler and company have are a very good football team on both sides of the field and should prove that point against their arch rivals at Soldier Field this Sunday.

Jay Cutler quarterback of the Chicago Bears

Jay Cutler

There is no question that the Green Bay Packers are still considered to be the best team in the NFL right now as they top the NFL power rankings and are undefeated at 2-0 coming into this showdown with the Chicago Bears, but last season the Bears were one of the teams in the league that were able to get the best of Aaron Rodgers and company in the NFL regular season.

Even though the Chicago Bears were able to top the Green Bay Packers in the regular season last year, they fell hard to their division rivals in the NFC Championship game and were exposed for their weak offensive line once again. In this Week 3 showdown, the Packers will try to have a repeat performance and put a tremendous amount of pressure on quarterback Jay Cutler.

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As of right now, the Green Bay Packers are favored to win this NFC North battle with a -4 point spread. This is solid spread in my opinion as I can’t see the Bears giving the Packers much of a challenge in Week 3, but Green Bay did struggle last week against Carolina and might have given Chicago some game film to use to their advantage.

Take the Packers at -4.

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Cam Newton throws for over 400 yards for the second straight game

Carolina Panther rookie QB Cam Newton

Perhaps the biggest surprise in Week 1 of the current NFL regular season was the record-breaking performance of the Carolina Panthers’ rookie quarterback Cam Newton. There is no question that taking Newton with the number one overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft was a no-brainer as he was without a doubt the most talented athlete available, but there was a lot of uncertainty surrounding the rookie gunslinger heading into Week 1 against the Arizona Cardinals.

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Against the Cardinals, Newton put on a show with an NFL record 422 passing yards and three total touchdowns (two passing, one rushing). This performance turned a lot of heads as many people believed that he would be a quarterback that would hurt opposing defenses more with his legs rather than his arm much like Michael Vick when he was playing with the Atlanta Falcons. Ironically enough, it has been the complete opposite thus far and as a result Cam Newton looks like the league’s newest superstar quarterback.

SAN DIEGO, CA - FEBRUARY 10: 2010 Heisman Trop...

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The Panthers selected Newton because he was the best available player and the new kind of hybrid quarterback that seems to flourish on the NFL level. Despite having a big upside with a potentially bright future in the NFL, no one expected much from the rookie in his first NFL start or even in his first full NFL season under center, but he has majorly exceeded expectations thus far with two brilliant performances in consecutive weeks to start his NFL career.

In Week 2, Cam Newton and company had to square off against the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers and the consensus was that the rookie quarterback would be put in his place against one of the best defenses in the league. That didn’t turn out to be the case as Newton threw for over 400+ passing yards for the second straight week and made people believe that last week was no fluke.

The Carolina Panthers still lost to the Green Bay Packers (30-23), but it was a show from start to finish with Cam Newton throwing for 485 total yards (432 passing, 53 rushing) and two touchdowns (one passing, one rushing). The rookie did get picked off three times in this one, but he single-handedly made this a competitive game and showed some promise for the future.

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Not only does it look like Cam Newton has won the Offensive Rookie of the Year award in just his first two games in the NFL, but he also looks like he might be able to turn around the struggling NFL franchise and make the Carolina Panthers legitimate playoff contenders in the near future.

It would be safe to say that the Carolina Panthers are the best 0-2 team in the league, but the reality remains the same that this team will miss the playoffs and needs more pieces to the puzzle in order to compete in the NFC Conference.

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