Well it’s another beautiful Wednesday in Atlanta. Last I checked it was a balmy 73 degrees outside. I don’t know about you, but I prefer my December to feel like December. It’s difficult to get in the holiday spirit when I’m still using my AC. Nothing like a an NFL playoff race to remind me exactly what time of year it is.
And speaking of heat… There’s no hotter team than these Atlanta Falcons. Sitting at 11-1, division title already in hand, the Falcons visit the 3-9 Carolina Panthers on Sunday and, with some help, could actually lock up home-field with 3 games to go. Then the conversation will turn to the burning question that plagues all great teams that clinch home-field early… Do I sit my starters??? That’s something I’ll dive into if and when the situation arises.
Right now we have a kitty to contain. Enter Cam Newton. Last year Cam was throwing for 300 yards like clockwork and rushed for more TD’s than any other QB in history. This year Cam is probably more famous for his poor attitude than he is for throwing touchdown passes. He could probably learn a thing or two from his counterpart in Atlanta.
No, Newton doesn’t have the weapons surrounding him that Ryan does. But Ryan wasn’t afforded the same cast in his first two seasons either. They both had a good ground game, questionable defenses,and a lot to learn. The difference to me is how the two handle adversity. Ryan always says the right thing, even after a game where he tosses five picks. If he was shaken, I couldn’t tell. Ryan doesn’t get caught up in things he can’t control. Ryan is at his best in the face of adversity. That’s how you get nicknames like “Matty Ice.”
Newton has all the tools NFL teams drool over. He’s big. He has a cannon for an arm and can extend plays after they break down with his legs. There were a lot of people, myself included, that thought he would lead this Panther team to the playoffs this year. But a porous defense and tons of turnovers has left Carolina sitting at 3-9 and once again in the mix for a top draft pick. Newton has a ton of upside, but until he goes to the Matt Ryan School of QB Ethics, the Panthers will continue to struggle.
In this league, you’ll get chewed up and spit out if you can’t handle adversity. And that’s just the media. Attitudes are infectious. Just as teams seem to mimick the qualities of their coaches, the same can be said for the quarterback. The tools around Newton will improve. If he wants to end up a perennial contender, his attitude needs to follow suit. That’s just my opinion. I’ll have a game preview on Saturday. Go Falcons.