Is this the first time Panthers have ever had the No. 1 scoring offense in the NFL? – Karen in Charlotte
The Panthers, who currently lead the league with 31.6 points per game, have never finished a season as the NFL's top scoring offense. Their highest rank came in 1999, when the Panthers put up 26.3 points per game to rank fourth in the league. They were also top-five Cam Newton's rookie season, coming in at No. 5 with 25.4 points.
I can't say with 100 percent certainty that the Panthers have never led the league in scoring after a given week in a given season, though I'm fairly certain they never have. I am certain of this, though: After the Panthers won 33-14 at Dallas on Thanksgiving Day, Carolina was averaging 30-plus points per game for the first time in franchise history. The Panthers have never scored 30 in a season opener or 60 through the first two games or anything of that sort.
In the preseason, much of the talk (understandably) centered on the Panthers' defense, and after Kelvin Benjamin went down, who could have seen this coming? But a healthy Newton and Jonathan Stewart did finish last season on a high note, and the stability established along the offensive line late in 2014 clearly has carried over.
Does Cam get fined for giving away footballs to the kids after each touchdown? If so, why? – Bryan in Archdale, N.C.
I've had a few people asking about this the last few days. No, Newton doesn't get fined for his "Sunday Giveaway." Players can be fined for throwing a ball into the stands (it's a potential safety issue), but handing them off is free of charge and creates priceless memories one touchdown at a time.
Nice name, by the way.
I noticed that Carolina is in the midst of facing three of the NFL's top six quarterbacks in consecutive games. Is the defense accepting this as a challenge to prepare them for the playoffs? – Matthew in Newport News, Va.
Analysts who doubted Carolina's 4-0 start pointed to their matchups with two young quarterbacks (Blake Bortles, Jameis Winston) and two career backups (Ryan Mallett, Luke McCown) as reasons for the early success. Well, it isn't producing nearly as much chatter, but Eli Manning for the New York Giants this week at No. 6 in passing yards qualifies as the lowest-ranked quarterback the Panthers will face in a four-week stretch. Atlanta's Matt Ryan (last week and next week) is fifth in passing yards, and New Orleans' Drew Brees (back in Week 13) is fourth.
Manning is perhaps the most dangerous of the trio, having thrown the most touchdowns (28) and the least interceptions (10) among the group. Carolina's defense has taken note and will be ready, especially with wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. on a streak of six consecutive 100-yard games.
What would we have to do to lock down homefield advantage if we don't get the perfect 16-0 regular season record? Basically how many more do we have to win to lock it down? – Ryan in Thomasville, N.C.
The Arizona Cardinals are the only other team with a shot at the NFC's top seed, sitting two games back with three to play. If the teams were to end up with identical records then the Cardinals would own the tiebreaker based on conference record, so for the Panthers to clinch this week they must win and have Arizona lose at Philadelphia on Sunday Night Football. If the Panthers win this week and next week, the Cardinals can't catch up.
View the top photos by photographer Kent Smith from Carolina's game against Atlanta.