The statistics say Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is in the midst of the best three-game stretch of his career.
Newton isnt buying it.
During the Panthers three-game win streak, Newton has an NFL-best passer rating of 130.3, which is also his personal best over three games. Newton has completed 77.3 percent of his passes for 667 yards and six touchdowns, with no interceptions.
Hes also run for two scores.
But he believes he can do more.
I think my best is yet to come. Ive said that before, Newton said Wednesday. And Im not celebrating right now because were just seven games in. We cant get beside ourselves just because were over .500. If you want to celebrate off that, then that tells you what type of person you really are.
The Panthers (4-3) have a winning record for the first time in five years heading into Sundays game with Atlanta (2-5). Over the past 16 games dating to last season, Newton has a passer rating of 95.9 and has led the Panthers to a 10-6 record.
Newton said he hasnt made any major changes to aid his development in his third year.
I just think it comes down to the little things, Newton said. Being able to pronunciate the play in the huddle without stuttering, leaving my mark on the practice field, being alert in meetings, being the first one out in practice, being able to be talk-able to in practice. Things like that.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Newton works on fundamentals, such as his footwork in the pocket, every day.
Hes right. His best football is ahead of him, based on the way hes played these last few weeks, Rivera said. Im very excited about who he is as a football player and the direction hes headed as hes developing into our leader.
White out? The Panthers might not have to contend with Falcons receiver Roddy White, whose 59-yard catch in Week 4 last season set up Matt Bryants game-winning field goal in the Falcons 30-28 victory against Carolina in Atlanta.
White, who has been bothered by hamstring and ankle injuries, had his streak of 133 consecutive games snapped two weeks ago against Tampa Bay, and also sat out last weeks loss at Arizona.
White did not practice Wednesday, and Falcons coach Mike Smith said it was too soon to tell whether White would be available against the Panthers. Atlanta already is without Pro Bowl receiver Julio Jones, who sustained a season-ending foot injury in October.
I think Roddy White is going to play, Panthers cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said. Its a division game and they need this game. I want him to play. I want the best man out there on the field so when we go out there and beat them on Sunday, I dont hear any excuses.
Matty nice: Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan admits he gave the Panthers added motivation last season when cameras caught him telling them to Get the (expletive) off our field! following Atlantas Week 4 win.
After Carolina beat the Falcons 30-20 in Charlotte, Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy responded in kind to Atlantas players.
Its an emotional game on both sides. Sometimes youre fired up out there and things come out, Ryan said during a conference call. They certainly got after us the second time. We went up there, and they took care of us pretty good.
Ryan said he doesnt have a beef with Hardy.
Im not a big talker during the games, in all honesty, Ryan said. Hes one of those guys, we have to know where hes at when we play against him. What he can do, he can change games. I dont have anything personal with him. But I know hes a great player.
Looking to the future: Rivera said the Panthers had the future in mind when they signed former Chicago Bears quarterback Matt Blanchard to their practice squad this week. Blanchard was on the Bears practice squad most of last season, and faced the Panthers in the exhibition opener this year before fracturing his knuckle the following week against San Diego.
This is a young man that weve looked at and liked, Rivera said. We figured when the opportunity was right, wed like to work him out, and (Tuesday) we saw some things that we liked.
Injury updates: Defensive end Charles Johnson missed practice with a strained groin, but reiterated he expects to play against the Falcons. ... Linebackers Thomas Davis (shoulder), Chase Blackburn (foot) and defensive tackle Dwan Edwards (hamstring) were limited. Edwards has missed the past five games, but expects to return Sunday.
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