In the final matchup of the first round of PFW’s “In the Trenches” series, the Carolina Panthers battle it out with the New England Patriots in hopes of being named the NFL’s best offense. Which team do you think should advance to the second round?
Here’s what some of the PFW staff had to say about the matchup:
Senior editor Eric Edholm:
“Cam Newton and Steve Smith are terrific, and the run game makes the Panthers hard to defend. But the Patriots are a different animal. They should be able to run it if they want, but no team has quite the diversity and versatility as the Patriots do with their pass catchers. They might not have as many splash plays as the Panthers, but the Patriots just have a more effective and dangerous attack. I am not worried about potential changes on the offensive line; they always are strong up front.”
Editor-in-chief Keith Schleiden:
“Is Cam Newton the most exciting young player in football? Quite possibly. Is he and the offense he leads, after one year, worthy of being lumped into the same category as the Patriots? I think not. Tom Brady and Co. consistently are among the best in the league at putting up points — they ranked No. 3 last season and were No. 1 in 2010. They haven’t ranked lower than eighth in the NFL in points scored in the past five years. The Panthers? Yes, the surged to a fifth-place tie in points scored a season ago. The year before, they ranked 32nd — dead last. Carolina is clearly improving, and should be a fun bunch to watch for years to come, but the Panthers and Patriots are not in the same league yet.”
Associate editor Arthur Arkush:
“The Patriots are what the Panthers aspire to be. Cam Newton exceeded even the wildest expectations as a rookie, but he has light years to go before he is mentioned in the same breath as Tom Brady. When grouping the best TE tandem in the NFL in with the receiving corps, New England also has an edge in this department. Carolina has the more talented backfield, but I will take New England’s offense, which has been so good for so long, ten times out of ten over the Panthers’ unit that has one impressive season under its belt.”
Senior editor Mike Wilkening:
“The Patriots’ offense ranked in the top three in the following categories in 2011: yards per game, passing yards per game, passing yards gained per play, first downs, points. Carolina has a bevy of offensive talent, but New England annually vexes defenses with its precision, playmaking ability and balance. When the Pats’ attack is rolling, it is nightmarish to try and stop.”
Associate editor Dan Parr:
“Carolina is much stronger than New England at running back, and the Panthers get a slight edge on the offensive line. At quarterback, Cam Newton is a rare talent, but he's not yet on Tom Brady's level, and I'll take Brady's targets over Newton's. Running back is the only area where Carolina has a significant advantage. New England has the better overall offense.”
Managing editor Mike Holbrook:
“It’s got to be the Patriots. While Cam Newton clearly made the Panthers more explosive, they were also inconsistent, with four games of less than 20 points and only four games of 30-plus points. The Patriots, on the other hand, can beat you in so many ways and were much more consistently powerful, scoring 30 or more points an eye-popping 12 times.”
Associate editor Kevin Fishbain:
“Patriots: The league’s best tight-end tandem (and the best tight end in Rob Gronkowski), one of the league’s best quarterbacks, a veteran O-line that is very good at protecting its quarterback, a host of receivers including the best slot receiver in the game and young backs who are versatile. Need I say more?”
Associate editor Eli Kaberon
"The Panthers have a lot of weapons, especially in the run game, and can clearly put points on the board. But when they are stacked up next to the Patriots, Carolina just isn’t on the same level. It’s going to take a few years — and a Super Bowl ring or three — for Cam Newton to be talked about on Tom Brady’s level in terms of quarterbacks. And while Steve Smith is a solid receiver, the talent and depth of New England’s pass-catchers is just outstanding. Both teams are good, but the Pats are better."
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