Can Cam keep it up?
Cam Newton has been on a tear. Over the past six games, the second-year quarterback has completed 60 percent of his passes for 1,519 yards, accounting for 15 touchdowns and two interceptions. Newton has gone four games without an interception, dating to a Week 10 loss against Denver. The Panthers have employed backs and tight ends to help protect Newton, who is making better decisions. The Chargers have the leagues fourth-ranked run defense, but are 22nd against the pass (242.9 yards a game).
Ron Rivera wanted to look at a number of young players over the final stretch of the season. But injuries have forced Rivera to use even more than he planned. Seventh-round pick D.J. Campbell will start at safety in place of Haruki Nakamura, who went on injured reserve last week. Armond Smith, signed from the practice squad two weeks ago, again will return kicks. With rookie Josh Norman stuck in Riveras doghouse, Josh Thomas will make his second consecutive start, and second-year corner James Dockery gets reps in the nickel package.
The Panthers at times have resembled San Diego-East during Riveras two seasons. The former Chargers defensive coordinator has a couple of ex-San Diego assistants on his staff, as well as Scott Turner, the son of Chargers coach Norv Turner. Panthers fullback Mike Tolbert spent four seasons in San Diego, while former Carolina tight end Dante Rosario, who is now with the Chargers, caught the game-winning touchdown for the Panthers the last time they played in San Diego. With neither team having much to lose the coaches jobs notwithstanding look for a wide-open game with lots of passing.