We were all witnesses 10 years ago when Cam Newton took the sports world by storm. His infectious smile glistened as he torched defenses en route to a 50-touchdown season, eventually winning him the Heisman Memorial trophy. It was one of the most impressive college football seasons in history.
Five years later, not only did Newton have one of the most spectacular single seasons in college football but also had one of the best seasons in NFL history. Newton carried his Carolina Panthers to a 15-1 record making the Super Bowl in 2015 while also winning league MVP.
It is now been another five years since Newton had his sensational season and now that he is healthy again, Cam looks to take his new team to the Super Bowl — a place the Patriots are far too familiar with.
The new look Patriots took on the Miami Dolphins on Sunday and although the score was close, the game never felt out of New England’s control as the Dolphins were playing catchup most the day. Newton was good but not great, going 15-19 passing for 155 yards and 75 rushing yards in his debut in the red, white and blue. Good news for Patriot fans is that Cam looked healthy and comfortable in his new system but took a couple hits that are concerning for a guy that hasn’t been able to stay on the field since his 2015 MVP campaign.
Luckily for Patriot Nation, head coach Bill Belichick is still with the team and his defense looks as stout as it did last year despite players leaving and sitting out. The defense will need to step up big once again if the plan is to get back to the Super Bowl. Newton is a fantastic athlete who can do it all, but in order to keep him fresh for 20 games, the Patriots need others to step up and make plays on the offense.
Newton’s new division, the AFC East, is one of the weaker divisions in football right now, as it has been for much of former quarterback Tom Brady’s 20-year stint with the franchise. Newton and the Patriots need to take care of business in those six games to make the playoffs, which after the first week doesn’t look like it will be that hard.
Last season I predicted Newton’s time in Carolina was done, even though I don’t think Newton is finished; Newton and the coaching staff had run their course and seemed to have hit a wall when it comes to progress. The retirement of Luke Kuechly on defense for the Panthers made the decision for Carolina to move on from Newton easier as the Panthers could sell to the fan base they were in rebuild mode instead of reloading with fresh new talent.
This year I’m making the prediction that the Patriots will be in the AFC Championship game come January. As of right now I’m leaning toward not making the Super Bowl, but could change in the following weeks as we get a larger sample size of games. Although it’s Super Bowl or bust for the New England franchise most years, you can’t help but think that going on a deep playoff run would do wonders for the confidence for everyone involved from fans to coaches to players. If Newton continues to play at this level and not turn the football over not only could we see him in another Super Bowl, but surely he will be the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year award winner.
Newton is a unicorn with a once-in-a generation talent, and his journey seems far from over.
Ryne Gallacher is a sports writer for The Outlook and the Dadeville Record.