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Carolina Creeping Up on New Orleans in NFC South

The start of the NFL season for the Carolina Panthers has been up and down to say the least. The Panthers hoped to play consistent each game but consistency has been nearly non-existent after seven weeks of the season.

Despite the team having the No. 3 ranked defense in the NFL and the No. 7 ranked rushing attack; Carolina is just 3-3 after seven weeks of the season.

Carolina lost its first two games of the season due to mistakes on both offense and defense, but came back to rout the hapless New York Giants 38-0 in week 3.

Attempting to build some momentum from their win against the Giants, the Panthers visited the Arizona Cardinals after a bye week. The aim was to play a complete game and put the Panthers over the .500 mark for the first time since Ron Rivera has been their coach.

That was not the case, as the Panthers were put under duress on offense by the Cardinals rush and quarterback Cam Newton was sacked seven times, once for a safety. Newton tossed three interceptions in the game as well.

In week six, the Panthers played well and routed the Minnesota Vikings 35-10. The Panthers defense was able to hold Adrian Peterson to just 62 yards rushing, thanks to putting 8 and 9 men in the box the entire game to stop the run and tempt Vikings quarterback Matt Cassel to throw the football.

In week 7, the Panthers defeated the St. Louis Rams 30-15 and appear to have finally found their stride. Newton had a second consecutive strong start.

betting 2The former Auburn standout hit 15 of his 17 passes for 204 yards with one touchdown. The game was marred by a number of penalties for personal fouls and several fights.

Over his past two games, Newton has completed 35 of his 43 passes for 464 yards and four touchdowns, with no interceptions.

With Sunday’s win, the Panthers won consecutive games for the first time this season and sit in second place just two games behind the New Orleans Saints and in the playoff picture.

It looks as though Newton is making better decisions and reading defenses better. However, he still is holding the ball too long at times, which causes him to take sacks he should not. Two sacks in Sunday’s game against the Rams essentially ended two drives.

Veteran wide out Steve Smith caught five passes, with one for a touchdown in the game.

Defensively the Panthers continue to be strong. The defense forced St. Louis into three turnovers, while sacking the quarterback four times. If the defense continues to be strong, and Newton can keep the offense improving, then the Panthers could give the Saints a run for their money in the NFC South or at the least earn one of the two NFC wildcard spots.

On Thursday, the Panthers play Tampa Bay and can go over the .500 mark for the first time since 2008.

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