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In terms of contracts and the salary cap, the Carolina Panthers can dump Cam Newton after this season.
When it comes to the football aspect of that decision, the Panthers shouldn’t be so eager to replace their quarterback.
By now everyone knows that if the Panthers wish, they can dump Newton after the season and save $19 million on the 2020 salary cap. Next year will be the final year on Newton’s deal, and it would cost Carolina only $2 million in dead cap space to get rid of him. When you consider Newton is past 30 years old and missed all but two games this season with a foot injury, it becomes an intriguing option. It’s one that has been talked about often the past few weeks after Newton went on injured reserve with a foot injury.
It also seemed feasible when Kyle Allen was playing well. But he’s not anymore. Since a hot start, Allen is looking like a low-end starter or a high-end backup. He’s not the answer. And Newton is a former MVP.
Allen did not play well, throwing four interceptions in a damaging 29-3 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Carolina trailed 26-0 after three quarters. The Falcons defense has suddenly had a complete turnaround the past two games, but it’s still a unit that was awful most of the season. And they made Allen and the Panthers look bad. When Allen sailed a pass well over D.J. Moore’s head and Falcons safety Ricardo Allen picked it off deep in his own territory near the end of the first half, that practically put the game away. The Panthers weren’t coming back, not with Allen doing very little. And the door really closed shut when Allen took a bad sack on fourth-and-5 to start the third quarter and the Panthers trailing 20-0, an unforgivable mistake in that situation.
No offense with Christian McCaffrey, Moore, Curtis Samuel and Greg Olsen should look as bad as the Panthers did Sunday. With the loss, the Panthers are practically out of the playoff race in a tough NFC.
It’s not like bringing back Newton isn’t without its own set of questions. Newton could just be breaking down after years of punishment from being used so often in the running game. He might not even be the same player anymore; injuries played a role in him not running much early in the season but it really seems his days as a true dual-threat quarterback could be over.
But the Panthers probably need to gamble anyway. At an $18.6 million base salary, the cost of keeping Newton is more than reasonable for a quarterback of his pedigree. Newton has had a fantastic career and he’s just 30 years old. He’s got many more miles on his body than almost any other 30-year-old quarterback we’ve seen, due to his large rushing volume, but even at 31 next year he should still have some prime years left. And it doesn’t cost the Panthers too much to find out.
And it’s looking more like Allen isn’t the type of quarterback you get rid of a former MVP for. He played well in his first start against the Arizona Cardinals, who have a terrible defense. Since then he has been mediocre. In the six starts after the Cardinals game, before Sunday, he had six touchdowns, five interceptions and a 78.5 passer rating. Then came Sunday’s debacle. Allen would be much cheaper than Newton in 2020, but you get what you pay for.
The Panthers probably need to start working on a post-Newton game plan. They won’t be in a position to draft an elite ready-made NFL prospect in the 2020 draft, but it will be a deep draft at the position.
But the Panthers future probably isn’t with Allen. We could see that on Sunday. Allen’s flaws have been exposed. He has done a good job replacing Newton and keeping the Panthers afloat, but Sunday’s loss puts them way behind in the NFC playoff race. They probably won’t be a playoff team with him next season either. The Panthers might not be a 2020 playoff team with Newton, but they have to take the chance.
Here are the rest of the winners and losers from Sunday’s Week 11 action in the NFL:
Bill Belichick: Here’s a novel idea: Why don’t we have NFL coach of the year to the best coach?
Strangely, it never happens that way. It almost always goes to the coach who most exceeds preseason expectations. Belichick can’t do that. He’s expected to win a Super Bowl every year.
But what the Patriots are doing this season is impressive. New England went on the road and knocked off a talented Philadelphia Eagles team 17-10. The defense, which is Belichick’s specialty, gave Carson Wentz fits. It won’t stop everyone from complaining that the Patriots haven’t beat anyone or played well against any good offenses, but that’s OK. The Patriots will take 9-1 and all of your scorn.
New England is reinventing itself on the fly. This isn’t the same Patriots team we saw the last time they faced the Eagles, which was in the Super Bowl. That game set an NFL record for most yards in any game. This Patriots team can’t play that way. The offense has changed. It’s not explosive enough to casually put up 500 yards or 40 points. But the Patriots still know exactly what they need to do to win. That’s all Belichick. He’s the best coach in the NFL this season, as usual, even though he won’t have get the award for it.
San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers could be forgiven for looking ahead. They just came off an emotional game against the Seattle Seahawks. They have the Packers, Ravens and Saints coming up next.
But the NFL doesn’t offer any easy wins. The 49ers almost suffered a really bad loss to the Arizona Cardinals at home. They’re fortunate that Jimmy Garoppolo played well and led a late game-winning drive.
A loss would have put the 49ers back into a tie for first place in the NFC West with the Seahawks, which would have been rough after an 8-0 start. It would have been even more worrisome with the schedule about to get really tough. They’ll need to play better to stay ahead of the Seahawks in the division, but at least they didn’t give away a game in Week 11.
Baltimore Ravens defense: We know what the Ravens offense brings to the table. Lamar Jackson makes them incredibly tough to stop.
If the defense can play like it did on Sunday, Baltimore is a true Super Bowl contender.
Jackson could be the best quarterback in the NFL this season (yes, Seattle Seahawks fans, we know, Russell Wilson is in that conversation too) but Deshaun Watson isn’t far behind. And the Ravens were awesome against him in a shocking 41-7 win. In the first half the Texans had 102 yards, the fewest for Houston in any game with Watson starting. The Texans trailed 14-0, and according to Sarah Barshop of ESPN it was the first time Watson had ever been shut out in the first half of a college or pro game. The Texans took Watson out of the game in the fourth quarter when they trailed 41-7. Getting cornerback Marcus Peters in a trade with the Rams has had a big impact on the Ravens defense. Peters had a good game on Sunday, mostly battling DeAndre Hopkins.
The Ravens defense wasn’t great early in the season, especially in a loss to the Browns at home. But it is coming on fast, and that might make them very tough to beat in January.
Dan Quinn: When the entire NFL world was waiting for Falcons owner Arthur Blank to fire Quinn in the middle of the season, Blank was patient. And maybe Quinn is saving his job.
Two good games don’t erase an ugly first half of the season, but the Falcons look like a different team. They shut down the New Orleans Saints last week in New Orleans, then traveled to blast the Carolina Panthers. Kyle Allen’s struggles were obvious, but the Falcons defense deserves credit for making life tough on him.
Quinn was on the ropes. He delegated defensive play-calling, which seems to have sparked something. The Falcons look entirely different the last two weeks. One reason Blank said he didn’t want to fire Quinn was that the players really like him. Based on how the players have rallied the past couple weeks, that seems accurate.
Mike Zimmer and Kirk Cousins: Imagine had the Vikings not come back in the second half on Sunday.
They trailed 20-0 to the Denver Broncos at home. According to CBS, over the last five seasons including playoffs, teams trailing by 20 or more at halftime were 0-99. But Cousins had a great second half with three touchdown passes and the Vikings defense held at the end, forcing three straight incompletions and time ran out in a 27-23 win.
Cousins has gotten his share of grief since signing a huge contract last year in Minnesota. Zimmer has done a good job overall, but a failure to get the Vikings to the playoffs this season would be bad, especially if it was due to a terrible loss to the Broncos at home.
The Vikings survived, and are still right in the NFC North race with the Packers. They also saved themselves a lot of grief this week.
Bengals and their quest to avoid 0-16: Cincinnati still has six more shots to avoid infamy, but let one slip away Sunday.
The Bengals are 0-10 after a 17-10 loss to the Oakland Raiders. Unlike some of Cincinnati’s other losses, they had a chance in this game.
The Bengals took an early 7-0 lead and then battled throughout. They kept it close but the offense never scored another touchdown. It really doesn’t make a lot of sense why the Bengals made the Andy Dalton-Ryan Finley switch so early in the season, and it’s fair to wonder if they could have beat the sleep-walking Raiders with Dalton at quarterback. Finley had 115 yards, no touchdowns and one interception against a bad pass defense. He gave the offense no chance.
The Bengals have a couple more games in which a win won’t be impossible. But 0-16 is looking possible now that they have double digits in the loss column.
Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC South race: Just when the Indianapolis Colts look finished, they save themselves.
The Colts are resilient. Getting Jacoby Brissett back at quarterback helped. Indianapolis beat the Jaguars 33-13 on Sunday, and Jacksonville probably needed a win to stay in the divisional race. They’re 4-6 and can be dismissed until further notice.
The Texans’ pratfall at Baltimore really opens the door for the Colts (and the Titans, who are 5-5 and on a bye). The Colts and Texans are tied again at 6-4. Brissett is good, and we found out what he means to the Colts on Sunday, as he returned from a knee injury. The AFC South race is going to be a pretty good one.
The Jameis rollercoaster, back down: Jameis Winston got a little bit of a vote of confidence from Bruce Arians, with Arians saying there was a “really good chance” Winston got a new deal if he continued to play well.
The problem is, Winston always reminds everyone that the mistakes in his game will never be erased.
Winston threw his fourth pick-six of the season with the Buccaneers trailing 27-17 in the fourth quarter. He overthrew a pass that was intercepted by Marcus Williams and taken back for the game-ending score. Then for good measure, Winston threw his fourth interception of the day with the Buccaneers at the Saints’ 1-yard line.
The Buccaneers had absolutely no running game Sunday. Their running backs had six attempts for 13 yards. And O.J. Howard botching an easy catch that turned into an interception wasn’t Winston’s fault. But Winston didn’t do a whole lot and his pick-six was the backbreaker. He’ll do that often. The Buccaneers know what they’re getting into if Winston gets that new deal.
Dwayne Haskins and the Redskins offense: Washington is doing the right thing playing rookie first-round pick Haskins and letting him learn. He’s also going to have some massive struggles because he is raw and the team around him isn’t good.
The Jets demolished the Redskins on Sunday, and the Jets aren’t very good. Haskins struggled. A late interception thrown from deep in his own territory early in the fourth quarter was the punctuation on a bad day. At that moment, with the Jets up 27-3, Haskins was 12-of-21 for 95 yards and an interception. Washington had not scored a touchdown since Oct. 13 against the Dolphins, though Derrius Guice broke that streak with a fourth-quarter touchdown run. Washington scored another meaningless touchdown late. They have scored 3, 7, 17, 0, 9, 9 and 17 points in their last seven games. Haskins isn’t in the best situation, but there was no good situation for him in Washington this season. He had to play, and that meant playing with a miserable Redskins team and coaching staff around him. At least Haskins has seen the worst situation possible in the NFL, and it can’t get much worse for him going forward.
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