Newton says Panthers are a playoff contender

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Last year, Panthers center Ryan Kalil called Carolina a Super Bowl team.  This year, Kalil hasn’t called his shot.

Quarterback Cam Newton has.

Appearing on WFNZ in Charlotte with Taylor Zarzour and Marc James, Newton said the Panthers are a playoff contender.

“I really do believe it,” Newton said.  “I’m not just saying anything because fans want to hear it.  I’m not saying just anything because it is good for my health.  And I won’t say anything that comes through my teeth that I really don’t believe in.  I believe in my players.  I believe in my offensive line that they are going to give me time to be successful.  And I believe that I have enough weapons at the wide receiver position that they are going to catch the football.  There’s no question about it in my mind.  I have an unbelievable running back corps.”

It’s good to be confident.  But there’s a fine line between optimism and delusion.  The Panthers play in a top-heavy division in a conference that has a strong group of great teams.

Can they contend for a playoff berth?  Sure; they won four straight games to end 2012 and five of six.  But it won’t be easy, especially with the Saints twice, the Falcons twice, the Bucs twice, the 49ers, the Seahawks, the Rams, the Vikings, the Giants, and the Patriots on the schedule.

Giving Newton a little extra motivation is the decision of Sports Illustrated to use a quartet of regional covers, featuring the four young quarterbacks who each got their teams to the playoffs in their debut seasons.  With Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, and Colin Kaepernick all 1-0 in that category and Cam at 0-2, it makes sense he’d be omitted, but he admitted that it gives him an extra chip on his shoulder as the 2013 regular season begins.

Coincidentally, one of those four guys — Wilson — will be coming to town to start the campaign.  The best way for Newton to get everyone’s attention would be to beat the Seahawks right out of the gates.