The Carolina Panthers are looking very much like the team that went to the Super Bowl two years ago, with Cam Newton back in MVP form. Newton and the Panthers will try to regain the momentum they had before the bye week and earn a fourth consecutive win when they visit the New York Jets on Sunday.
Newton enjoyed his best game of the season before the bye, throwing for 254 yards and four touchdowns while adding 95 yards on five carries in a 45-21 win over the Miami Dolphins. “We just want to keep it going,” Newton told reporters before the bye. “It’s nothing saying we’ve hit our pinnacle yet, and there’s nothing saying we can’t get better. That’s the thing we’ve just got to be optimistic about.” The Panthers might need to work to maintain their focus this week with a showdown at the NFC South-leading New Orleans Saints set for next week and a matchup against a Jets team that dropped four of the last five games. New York went into its bye with a sour taste after dropping a 15-10 decision at Tampa Bay, but is only one game out of a wild-card spot in the AFC and is sticking by veteran quarterback Josh McCown.
TV: 1 p.m. ET, FOX. LINE: Panthers -5. O/U: 40
ABOUT THE PANTHERS (7-3): Newton figures to get a big weapon back on Sunday in tight end Greg Olsen, who suffered a broken foot in Week 2 but was taken off injured reserve on Monday and spent the week practicing with the team in anticipation of playing Sunday. “You just want to remember how to do this,” Olsen told reporters. “You take a lot of things for granted sometimes that you’re going to pick up where you left off, but there is a little bit of a learning curve when you’ve been out for a while.” Olsen rejoins a receiving corps that was getting a little thin after trading away Kelvin Benjamin and losing Curtis Samuel for the rest of the season to an ankle injury.
ABOUT THE JETS (4-6): New York was not expected to do much this season except put the team in position to draft its quarterback of the future, and there were some calls for coach Todd Bowles to get one of the younger quarterbacks on the roster - Bryce Petty or Christian Hackenberg - some playing time with the team seemingly sliding out of the race. “I’m not coming up with a scenario right now (that would involve a change at quarterback),” Bowles told reporters. “We’re going to play the games and we’re going to try to win each one. ... Josh will be our quarterback and we’ll go from there.” McCown, 38, is completing 69 percent of his passes with 14 touchdowns and eight interceptions, but has been sacked 32 times - third most in the NFL.
1. Panthers C Matt Kalil (neck) came off IR this week and is questionable for Sunday.
2. Jets RB Matt Forte (knee) sat out the last game and is questionable.
3. Carolina WR Devin Funchess recorded a season-high 92 yards and two TDs last time out on Nov. 13.
PREDICTION: Panthers 28, Jets 17