Bryan, with Cam in the concussion protocol and Derek Anderson's track record of beating Tampa Bay, do you think Coach Rivera and the staff will try to let Cam recover a little longer than normal? – Jonathan in Twentynine Palms, Calif.
In Sunday's setback at the Atlanta Falcons, Derek Anderson kept a spark going that Newton had started, and Anderson did lead a pair of victories over the Buccaneers in 2014.
But if cleared to play Monday, let's be clear: Newton will play. We are talking about the reigning league MVP here.
Now if Newton doesn't navigate through the concussion protocol quickly enough to play, he certainly could benefit from watching Anderson in action. The Panthers signed Anderson when Newton was a rookie in 2011 because he has something to offer as a mentor, a process that never truly ends. And, in light of how Anderson played Sunday and how he's played in the past, Carolina can have confidence if he is indeed under center Monday.
But when healthy enough to play, Newton is the man. No, he hasn't played like an MVP to date, but that's all the more reason he needs to play. Newton actually didn't tear it up early in his historic 2015 season – he had nine touchdown passes and seven interceptions through six games. From there, he had 26 touchdowns and three interceptions. There's not even a handful of players on the planet capable of that kind of stretch.
Bryan, everyone is ripping on the defense, but shouldn't we be just as worried about the offense? In Sunday's game, the defense scored the only touchdown until the fourth quarter. – Marla in Starke, Fla.
Well, fourth-quarter points count just as much as other points, and the Panthers are actually fourth in the league in yards per game and sixth in scoring. But yes, I understand what you're saying.
Before the offense got rolling a little too late against the Falcons, the unit had produced just a field goal. Between that and the cold three quarters after a hot start the previous week against Minnesota, the offense went 17 consecutive drives without a touchdown.
Consistency of performance is the biggest need right now. The potential for the group is obvious given its league rankings even with that drought, but too many negative plays have been too much to overcome. Sacks and penalties were down Sunday, but so was the running game. Monday night against a defense allowing 32 points a game presents an opportunity to put it all together.
Atlanta really exposed our weakness in the secondary. Is there concern yet to the point where Coach Rivera and Dave Gettleman are ready to look in free agency? – Corey in Statesville, N.C.
Why is the pass rush from the front four not reaching expectations? – Bryan in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
The two questions above might seem to be totally different in nature at first glance, but not in the view of defensive coordinator Sean McDermott. When he looks for answers to what he called an "uncharacteristic" showing by his unit, both the front four and the back four are a part of his evaluation process.
"It has to work together," McDermott said. "It wasn't just the young corners or whatever. It's spread. It starts with me, and it's a whole team defense thing."
The Panthers had a near-perfect formula of complementary football on defense last year. The front four helped the secondary by applying enough pressure to limit the time defensive backs had to cover receivers, and the secondary covered in a manner that gave the pass rush time to get to the quarterback. And in between the two units, the linebackers made plays.
That beautiful balance has eluded Carolina too often this season, but again, the potential is there. The Panthers rank 28th in the league in points allowed (remarkably, the best ranking for an NFC South team), but they're the 12th-stingiest in terms of yards allowed. I'm confident the defense will figure things out, but it needs to be sooner rather than later.
View photos from Carolina's game against the Falcons by team photographer Melissa Melvin-Rodriguez.