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Five Carolina Panthers Players Will Feature In NFL Pro Bowl

CHARLOTTE– The NFC South Division Champion Carolina Panthers will have five players in representation at the 2014 Pro Bowl.

Linebacker Luke Kuechly, defensive end Greg Hardy, center Ryan Kalil, fullback Mike Tolbert and quarterback Cam Newton will all be making the trip to Hawaii Jan. 26.

First-time Pro Bowlers Kuechly and Hardy will headline for the Panthers’ top-ranked scoring defense.

“It’s an honor to be selected to the Pro Bowl. I’ve grown up watching the games at the end of the season, and it’s awesome to have a chance to be a part of it. I would like to thank the players, coaches and fans who voted for me. Our defense has played great this year and made this possible,” Kuechly says.

It will be Cam Newton’s second Pro Bowl appearance. He served as an alternate after his rookie season in 2011 when he was Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Tolbert has earned his first Pro Bowl selection by scoring a team-high seven touchdowns.

“It’s a big honor, because it shows all the hard work I put in pays off in the way I’ve been able to help my team win and by doing everything the coaches ask of me. It’s a great feeling,” Tolbert says.

This year, the Pro Bowl no longer contains the AFC versus NFC showdown that has been the annual tradition since 1971. Players will be assigned to teams through the Pro Bowl Draft on Jan. 22.

The Panthers host the San Francisco 49ers this Sunday at 1 p.m. in the Divisional round of the NFL playoffs.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/professional/five-carolina-panthers-players-make-nfl-pro-bowl/

Panthers Clinch NFC South, Edge Falcons, 21-20

ATLANTA — Cam Newton threw two touchdown passes, Greg Hardy had a team- record four sacks and the Carolina Panthers clinched the NFC South title by beating the Atlanta Falcons 21-20 on Sunday. 

The Panthers (12-4) clinched a first-round bye and home-field advantage for at least one game as the No. 2 seed in the NFC. Seattle beat St. Louis 27-9, meaning Carolina will only get home field advantage in the divisional round.

Carolina set a team record by sacking Matt Ryan nine times. The defense also produced a touchdown on Melvin White’s 7-yard interception return in the second quarter.

Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez had four catches for 56 yards and was honored at halftime in his final regular-season game. He has announced plans for retirement.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/professional/panthers-clinch-nfc-south-edge-falcons-21-20/

Newton’s TD Pass Lifts Panthers Over Saints 17-13

CHARLOTTE — Cam Newton threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Domenik Hixon with 23 seconds left to lift the Carolina Panthers to a 17-13 win over the New Orleans Saints and clinch the team’s first playoff berth since 2008.

Carolina (11-4) can wrap up the NFC South and a first-round bye in the playoffs with a win next Sunday at Atlanta.

The Panthers intercepted Drew Brees twice and sacked him six times to avenge a 31-13 loss two weeks ago.

Still, the Panthers needed some last-minute big plays from Newton to seal the win. After being held to 116 yards passing for the game’s first 59 minutes, Newton led the Panthers 65 yards in 32 seconds for the go-ahead score.

The Saints (10-5) can still clinch a playoff berth if Arizona loses to Seattle.

New Orleans’ road woes persist. The Saints have dropped five of their last six games away from the Superdome.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/professional/newtons-td-pass-lifts-panthers-saints-17-13/

Newton Says Focus On Winning, Not Big Contract

Image courtesy of digtriad.com

SPARTANBURG, SC – Cam Newton says the only thing on his mind as the Panthers open training camp is a three-letter word: Win.

Sure, Newton is aware of the $100 million contracts awarded this offseason to fellow NFL quarterbacks Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan – and the hefty deal that could await him after the season.

But Carolina’s franchise signal caller says a big contract isn’t what motivates him entering year three.

On seeing Ryan’s five-year, $103.75 million extension, Newton shrugged saying “I didn’t think anything. Good for him.”

Under the new CBA, Newton isn’t eligible for a contract extension until after this season.

But first he might have to prove he can win at the NFL level.

He’s 13-19 as a starter and hasn’t led Carolina to the playoffs.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/professional/newton-says-focus-on-winning-not-big-contract/

The Uncertainty of Fantasy Football in the 2011-2012 NFL Season

As we enter the second week of byes, it is interesting to note how much has changed in the NFL and thus in Fantasy Football since this time last year.  An inordinate number of early Fantasy draft picks have, so far this season, fallen short of their projected performances.  And some of these players are not likely to turn it around anytime soon either.  There are Fantasy follies in every season, but with the unpredictability of the early NFL season, having a few on your roster is nearly unavoidable. 
 
When comparing the expectations held before 9/8/2011 with how the 2011-12 season has played out, one of the most shocking mismatches is undoubtedly the Tennessee Titans and their 32nd ranked rushing offense –that’s right, DEAD LAST in rushing in the NFL.  Chris Johnson was projected to be one of the top running backs in the league, if not the very top depending on where you projected Adrian Peterson and Arian Foster.  Johnson was within the first 5 players selected in almost every single Fantasy Football draft this year.  While some did postulate that his hold out for contract negotations would influence his early season production, no one could have foreseen the Titans with Chris Johnson active and actually playing to be last in the league when it comes to carrying the rock.  If someone had walked up to you before the season started and said, “I bet you 20 bucks that 5 weeks into the season Tennessee will have the worst-ranked rushing offense,” wouldn’t you have taken it?  I know I would have. 
 
And I will keep it rolling with the preseason hypotheticals: if I had asked you to pick which team offense would be ranked 5th and which would be ranked 30th between the Panthers and the Colts entering Week 6, what do you think you would have said?  The Colts’ glitch of a Peyton Manning-less season is not as much of an enigma as the Panthers and their record-breaking beast of a rookie quarterback, Cam Newton, but this just goes to show how important quarterbacks have become in this pass-happy league. 
 
Other anomalies of this season include both the Bills’ and Lions’ winning records (the latter more impressive by a game), the Packers shoddy pass defense, and the Texans’ complete 180 on both defensive fronts (kudos to Mr. Phillips). Whether these are just prolonged deviations from the norm or long-term transformations must be proven on the gridiron, but the clock is ticking faster for some than others.  
 
One of the most publicized stories throughout the offseason, and perhaps the best example of the volatility of this year, was the Eagles’ acquisition of several top-notch players to work alongside Michael Vick and the Vince Young coined “Dream Team.” As we all know, and 800 sports analysts have so uncleverly remarked, the dream is over (make that 801). But what I think is interesting is to consider where the Eagles stand now as compared to last season heading into their match up Sunday with the (my) Washington Redskins at FedEx Field, and what is widely thought of as a “make or break the season” game.  
 
As all Fanagers who owned Michael Vick last season remember (myself included), his performance at FedEx against the ‘Skins was that of Fantasy legend, ultimately setting the record for the most points scored by a quarterback in Fantasy Football history! This year, well, it is not looking so good.  To give my guys some credit, the Redskins have significantly improved in multiple areas, but their defense is looking especially impressive.  They have allowed only the 27th most points to opposing QBs and haven’t allowed more than 10 fantasy points to any opposing quarterback since week 2.  Not only are the Redskins playing well, but they are also well-rested. Last week they had a bye and undoubtedly put some extra emphasis into preparing for the division rival who absolutely humiliated them in their own house last year. 
 
With all of these factors working in the Redskins’ favor, there is one thing to remember, this is not just a “make or break” game for the Eagles.  The Redskins have just as much to prove or, as in recent decades, disprove.  
 
The time to define the season is here and some teams have already taken the reins (glad to see you finally showed up, Pittsburgh). As the formidable separate themselves from the flukes, some players will step up and others will inevitably fall behind, but the successful Fanager is prepared for both. 

http://chapelboro.com/columns/miss-fantasy-football/the-uncertainty-of-fantasy-football-in-the-2011-2012-nfl-season/