NFL Preview - Oakland (4-10) at Carolina (5-9)|
By John McMullen, NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - It hasn't been a great year for Carolina or Cam Newton but
they are at least finishing strong.
Newton and the Panthers hope to keep moving in the right direction Sunday when
they entertain the moribund Oakland Raiders
Carolina's second-year signal-caller has picked it up recently, passing for 10
touchdowns and no interceptions with a 109.8 passer rating in his past five
games. Newton also currently has 152 passing attempts without an interception,
the longest current streak in NFL.
Last Sunday he threw for 231 yards and two touchdowns as the Panthers crushed
the San Diego Chargers, 31-7, at Qualcomm Stadium.
Newton completed 19-of-33 passes on the day to help Carolina to its third win
in four games. DeAngelo Williams rushed for 93 yards on 22 carries and also
caught two passes for 51 yards and a touchdown.
Steve Smith led all receivers with six catches for 57 yards and a score.
The Carolina defense also constantly harassed Philip Rivers, who fumbled four
times and was sacked on six occasions for San Diego.
"We started fast," Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. "We gave ourselves
opportunities early on in the game and we took advantage of a miscue to put
points on the board right away. Once we did that, we really thought that,
offensively, we could control the tempo a little bit."
The Raiders are also coming off a rare win when Sebastian Janikowski accounted
for all of Oakland's points on five field goals, as the Raiders posted a 15-0
victory over the lowly Kansas City Chiefs.
Carson Palmer finished 18-of-29 for 182 yards for the Raiders, who snapped a
six-game skid. Darren McFadden totaled 110 yards on a career-high 30 carries
with four grabs for 39 yards, and Rod Streater posted 62 yards on five
"I think our guys needed something where they get a little bit of confidence,"
Raiders coach Dennis Allen said. "I thought they were totally focused in on
what we needed to do and how we needed to play to win this football game."
Palmer now needs just 13 passing yards to join Rich Gannon as the only QBs in
Raiders history to reach 4,000 in a single-season.
Oakland and Carolina have played just four times previously with each team
winning a pair.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
If the NFL is truly about adjustments, it looks as it Newton has finally
responded to the tweaks opposing defensive coordinators threw at him after his
explosive rookie season.
The former Heisman Trophy winner and Rookie of the Year has rebounded nicely
after the Panthers' disastrous 2-8 start in which he piloted a group which
averaged 18.4 points per game. Since then Carolina has won three of four and
averaged 28 points and a blistering 407.5 yards a game.
"I could not have done it without my offense, and they could not have done it
without me," Newton told the Panthers' website. "There are a lot of guys going
unnoticed behind the scenes that make this work. It is not a one-man team. I
think that's what we have learned more as the season has progressed."
The Raiders, like everyone who plays Newton, must devise a plan to stop the
read-option. Oakland had allowed over 35 points per game during a six-game
losing streak before whitewashing Kansas City, the team's first shutout since
2002, but Brady Quinn doesn't exactly present the same kind of threat as
Offensively for the Raiders it's all about getting McFadden involved. Oakland
is 4-1 this season when the former Arkansas star carries the ball 18-plus
times. That's easier said than done, however, since Carolina has given up just
105 total yards on the ground in its last two contests.
"I think we all saw that when we execute that game plan the way that we feel
like we're capable of executing it, we have a chance to win games," Allen
For years Oakland has been an undisciplined bench and nothing has changed in
2012 under Allen.
The Raiders tend to turn the ball over more than most, coming it with
minus-7 ratio on the season. A few miscues is all Newton should need and
expect the Panthers to pull away late, culminating in a third straight win for
the first time since the Panthers closed the 2009 season on a three-game
"The biggest thing is that the guys continue to come to work every week,
practice hard and continue to do the things we ask of them," Rivera said. "I
know we don't have a chance to make the playoffs, but with the way our guys
are approaching things, we can keep that momentum going."
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Panthers 27, Raiders 14
12/20 12:45:36 ET