The statistics say Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is in the midst of the best three-game stretch of his career.
Newton isn’t 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.
He’s also run for two scores.
But he believes he can do more.
“I think my best is yet to come. I’ve said that before,” Newton said Wednesday. “And I’m not celebrating right now because we’re just seven games in. We can’t get beside ourselves just because we’re 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 Sunday’s 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 hasn’t 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.
“He’s right. His best football is ahead of him, based on the way he’s played these last few weeks,” Rivera said. “I’m very excited about who he is as a football player and the direction he’s headed as he’s 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 Bryant’s 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 week’s 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. “It’s 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 don’t 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 Atlanta’s Week 4 win.
After Carolina beat the Falcons 30-20 in Charlotte, Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy responded in kind to Atlanta’s players.
“It’s an emotional game on both sides. Sometimes you’re 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 doesn’t have a beef with Hardy.
“I’m not a big talker during the games, in all honesty,” Ryan said. “He’s one of those guys, we have to know where he’s at when we play against him. What he can do, he can change games. I don’t have anything personal with him. But I know he’s 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 we’ve looked at and liked,” Rivera said. “We figured when the opportunity was right, we’d 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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