Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers roll into Mercedes-Benz Stadium Sunday with two things on their mind. Win and contain Julio Jones. Neither will be easy.
Sunday is the Atlanta Falcons home opener and the crowd will be very loud. The Carolina Panthers and Atlanta Falcons are hated division rivals so expect them to be even louder than normal, which is even more fuel for the monster known as Julio Jones and his adversary – Panthers quarterback Cam Newton.
Jones put on the show of his lifetime with a 300-yard receiving game against the Panthers in October of 2016. He turned around last year and had six catches for 118-yards in Carolina but was held scoreless and in the last meeting of the season was held to five catches and 60 yards – scoreless again.
The good news is not scoring against the Panthers last year, then again he only had three touchdowns all of last year. Rest assured he will be looking to top that number by a mile this year and if he has a big game Sunday, it’s almost a guarantee they will win as Jones is 7-4 lifetime versus Carolina.
Panthers cornerback James Bradberry has said that he is looking to take the step as a Pro Bowl candidate this year and that starts with learning how to shut down guys like Jones, Michael Thomas and Mike Evans – all in the division. Even with that being said, I’m sure he won’t be in single coverage with Jones most of the game, the Philadelphia Eagles tried this Week One and he caught 10 balls for 166-yards. So if Jones puts on an epic show Sunday, how can Carolina win?
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What’s the one thing that will trump a dynamic performance from the Atlanta star receiver? A big Cam Newton performance!
Newton is 6-5 lifetime against the Falcons with only a single three touchdown game – one. That was in 2015, his MVP season. The Panthers won that game 38-0, with Newton completing 15 of 21 passes (71-percent). This was the equivalent to Jone’s 300-yard game. When he is that accurate and only throws the ball 21 times it’s hard to deal with. Newton’s 662-yards rushing and 7 touchdowns vs. the Falcons is mind blowing and he averages 7.2 yards per carry.
The potential for a huge game is there. I’ve said a few times, Newton will average 70-percent or better this year passing. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner has put Newton in a position with these weapons to do so and I think he will go to the check down more than ever this year.
I expect Newton to have a great game Sunday against his hometown Falcons, but I expect Jones to have one as well. Whoever has the bigger game will clearly have the advantage to win.