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Newton Finds Third Season Is Lucky One, Bucs Martin Not Ready to Concede Season is Done

The Carolina Panthers (3-3) has won two straight games and many have taken note of the improved play of quarterback Cam Newton as a contributing factor in them. He has more pass completions, throwing for greater yards in each attempt and making less mistakes. The Panther’s defense has also been dominant, sitting at No. 3 in total defense for the league and when combining all these ingredients, many think the team could be a serious playoff contender.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera said recently of Newton via the team’s website, “He’s got a better feel for what we’re trying to do. He’s going through his progressions, and he’s got a great feel for that. He’s really worked very hard on that, and you’re starting to see the fruits of that labor.”

Cam Newton

Cam Newton

Another change by Newton may be his greater use of his offensive weapons. While wide receiver Steve Smith has been his weapon of choice, from the season’s first two games, Newton had 62.1 percent of his passes completed to Smith and tight end Greg Olsen, according to ESPN. Fellow receivers, Ted Ginn Jr. and Brandon LaFell, only saw 21 percent.

But now through the last four games, Newton appears to be spreading the wealth. Smith and Olsen have now been the recipients of 45 percent of his competed passes while the Ginn and LaFell duo has seen their production rise to 35 percent.

In addition, Newton’s passer rating from the last two games was 136.3 and 143.4, respectively, giving him the distinction of the only quarterback in the league this season to have two straight weeks of a 136 rating or higher.

From last Sunday’s game, Newton’s 88.2 completion rate in the 30-15 win over the St. Louis Rams (3-4) was the best in Panther history as he surpassed Jake Delhomme’s 2006 85.2 number.

The Panthers like like they will only keep improving and Newton’s hard work both on an off the field is paying off. The team got some good news this week as running back Jonathan Stewart was scheduled to practice on Tuesday; he hasn’t been ruled out for Thursday’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-6).

Stewart is recovering from offseason surgery on his ankles and has been sitting on the team’s PUP list. Rivera was noncomittal about the player’s return on Monday and some pundits see his return coming in Week 9 against the Atlanta Falcons (2-4)

In Stewart’s place, running back DeAngelo Williams has stepped up as the team’s leading ball carrier (a 4.1 yard average per run). He has shared some snaps with fellow back Mike Tolbert.

For this week’s game against the Bucs, the Panthers will get their third straight win (-5.5, 40 o/u) and for the 2014 Super Bowl, are 66/1 to win it.

Doug Martin

Doug Martin

Meanwhile, the Bucs running back Doug Martin isn’t ready to say the 2013 season is in the books. The sophomore player suffered a torn labrum in his left shoulder during last week’s game, a 31-23 loss against the Falcons.

He is yet to practice this week and on Tuesday, he said via no, it wasn’t a season-ending injury by saying via Tampa Bay Live from his weekly radio show, “No. Right now, I’m doing treatment on it with the trainers and taking it day by day and seeing how it feels.’’

While appearing on the show, Martin’s arm was in a sling.

His coach, Greg Schiano, also isn’t ready to throw in the towel on one of his few offensive weapons. But Martin will likely be out for this week’s game against the Panthers and the next man up is Mike James.

Without Martin, the team will miss his 3.6 yards per carry average. The Buccaneers are No. 20 in the NFL for rushing yards and for now, they want to snap their winless season. It won’t happen this week and for a 2014 Super Bowl win, they sit at, yep, 1000/1.

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