Panthers Head into Showdown with 49ers Playing Game the right way

11/9/13 in NFL   |   patrickhoffman3530   |   122 respect

Oct 20, 2013; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith (89) reacts after scoring a touchdown in the third quarter. The Carolina Panthers defeated the St. Louis Rams 30-15 at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY SportsLast season was a topsy turvy one for the Carolina Panthers.

They finished the season with a 7-9 record and failed to make the postseason. With that said, however, it could have been a lot worse had the Panthers not gone ahead and finished the season with four straight wins.

This is exactly where the team stands right now as they head into their showdown with the 6-2 San Francisco 49ers. The Panthers have won four consecutive games and find themselves with a 5-3 record and one game behind the NFC South leading New Orleans Saints.

For the first time in five seasons, the Panthers are two games over .500 after their team's first eight games. With the way the team is playing now, they are putting themselves in a good position to make the postseason for the first time since 2008.

Leading the way for the Panthers is their star quarterback Cam Newton. Through his team's first eight games, he has thrown 13 touchdown passes for 1,801 yards with a completion percentage of just over 64 percent and a QBR of 93.1.

While there are still some things that Newton needs to work on such as the amount of times he has been sacked (22) and further lessening the amount of interceptions he throws (7), Newton has this team rolling in the right direction. In his last four games, he has done a great job of protecting the football, has thrown seven touchdown passes and rushed for 128 yards with three touchdowns.
Steve Smith, the Panthers' ageless 34-year-old warrior, is also having a productive season for his football club. He may just have three touchdowns but he does have 36 receptions and has avearged just over 10 yards per reception.

Furthermore, Smith looks reborn on this team this season. With the team playing meaningful football games, Smith has an opportunity to be of something great for perhaps one of the last times in his career.

The team has also gotten solid play from the likes of Mike Tolbert (six touchdowns), Greg Olsen (three touchdowns), and Brandon LaFell (three touchdowns). The Panthers have showed offensive depth this season and because of that, find themselves in the middle of the pack this season in points for with 204. 

The Panthers' defense has been the team's biggest strength this season. As of this writing, they have allowed the least amount of points against (106) and in their last four games, have allowed just 48 points.

After further examining the Panthers' defense, one will see that the team has allowed just 13.2 points per game (second in the league), have kept opponents to less than 300 yards per game and have the league's third ranked defense. The Panthers will need to continue to play this way with big games coming up against the 49ers and New England Patriots.

Should the Panthers continue to play well on both sides of the ball, it could end up being very exciting come January for this team and their fans.
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