Cam Newton (1) and running back Jonathan Stewart (28) celebrate after Newton scored a touchdown against the Washington Redskins during the second half against the Washington Redskins at FedEX Field. (Brad Mills-US PRESSWIRE)

Inside The Villain's Venue: Denver Broncos vs. Carolina Panthers

As the Denver Broncos get ready to play the Carolina Panthers, I thought I’d take you deeper inside the Panthers’ season. I asked Ken Dye, editor of Fansided’s Cat Crave to talk about Cam Newton, Ron Rivera, and the Panthers’ defense among other things.

Let’s go Inside the Villain’s Venue with Cat Crave.

Predominantly Orange: With 6 touchdowns and 8 interceptions through the first half of the season, has Cam Newton hit the sophomore slump? 

Cat Crave: No, the whole offense has hit Ron Rivera’s “sophomore slump.” We have the talent to go deep into the playoffs but the offense hasn’t been consistent all season. Neither interception against the Bears was Cam’s fault; Steve Smith fell down on an out route/timing pass for an easy pick-six. On the second INT, he was hit from behind and threw a pass without much on it…and Greg Olson just stood there like a bump on a log while Tim Jennings hustled for the ball. The Steve Smith slip happens – nobody’s “fault” there, but Olson did not hustle, and that’s a coaching issue. It IS a team sport, after all.

PO: Newton leads the team in rushing average per game even though Carolina has DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. What gives? Is the team putting too much pressure on Newton?

CC: No, it’s natural for a QB to have open space to take off into because of the threat of the pass and especially in Cam’s case because he has the arm to attack and threaten any place on the field. Stewart’s had nagging injuries and DeAngelo hasn’t had that many carries because of the presence of Mike Tolbert. The team puts undue pressure on Newton when they ask him to carry the team to victory on his arm, despite an $89 million backfield. That falls on Chud’s shoulders (Offensive Coordinator Rob Chudzinski).

PO: Ron Rivera is 8-16 in his second year as head coach. GM Marty Hurney was fired a couple of weeks ago. Do you think Rivera will be in Carolina very long?

CC: I’ve been giving that particular question a lot of thought, and the answer is not necessarily. He’s a defensive-minded coach and the defense has been improving all year. However, it’s my feeling that he’s gone if he has a losing season. I think 8-8 would necessarily mean a strong finish since we’re sitting at 2-6 now, and that MIGHT be enough to give him one more year. Possibly 7-9 could save him if the defense begins to really dominate the last month, so there are still a lot of variables to consider but it’s far from a done deal that he’s gone at this point.

PO: The Panthers are right up there in sacks with 24 on the year. The Broncos haven’t given up a sack in the last three games. Who do you think wins that battle?

CC: I think it largely depends on Denver’s interior OL. We’ve got a front-four with some depth at end that can pressure the QB without needing to blitz, but Peyton gets the ball out so quickly, sacking him will be quite difficult. The guy to watch on our side is DT Dwan (not Ron) Edwards…he’s got 5.5 sacks which is amazing from the DT position through 8 games, and if he can get some pressure on Manning through the middle, that could get a sack or force some poor throws.

PO: Finally, what’s your prediction for Sunday’s contest?

CC: When all’s said and done, Denver 27, Carolina 19. I wrote an article last night that your readers might find informative in dissecting the pregame: http://catcrave.com/2012/11/07/denver-at-carolina-looking-at-the-relevant-statistics/

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