Sam Bradford and Cam Newton were drafted No. 1 overall in back-to-back years, and both started the season as quarterbacks in a make or break year.
When selected Bradford was seen as a can't-miss, traditional slinger, and Newton had a few question marks about how he’d adapt to the pro game with his rush-heavy skill set. Poor play, injury, and lack of talent around him have slightly marred Bradford’s NFL experience, while Newton has mixed flashes of brilliance with copious turnovers.
As a result, neither has lifted their teams to the playoffs, with Bradford posting a .382 winning percentage to Newton’s .405. Bradford has the edge in passing yards at 10,810, but the advantage of 11 more starts. Newton’s also tossed 34 picks to Bradford’s 37.
The two will square off for the first time in their careers on Sunday as the St. Louis Rams meet the Carolina Panthers at Bank of American Stadium.
At 3-3, the Rams are third in the crowded NFC West and have ripped off two straight wins, including last week’s 38-13 drubbing of the Houston Texans. Bradford tossed three touchdowns, linebacker Darren Bates returned a fumble for 14 yards for a score, and rookie linebacker Alec Ogletree brought his first career interception back 98-yards.
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The Panthers are third in total defense after five games, but Newton and the 19th-ranked offense have failed to generate enough offense for more than a 2-3 record. However the Panthers may have turned the corner.
Coming off an early bye Carolina notched their second win of the season last week, blasting the Minnesota Vikings 35-10 behind four total touchdowns from Newton. Receiver Brandon LaFell made four receptions for a career-high 107 yards, most coming from his 79-yard touchdown burst.
The Panthers defense continued to dominate, holding Minnesota to 75 rushing yards and safety Mike Mitchell picked off quarterback Matt Cassel twice.
Depth could be an issue for Carolina this weekend, with defensive tackle Dwan Edwards listed as doubtful due to a hamstring injury, and corner D.J. Moore is listed as out with a knee injury.
The running back matchup pits Carolina veteran DeAngelo Williams against rookie Zac Stacy who’s made the most of his playing time with 4.9 yards per carry. Williams is 10th in the NFl with 394 yards, but has yet to reach the endzone.
Thankfully for the Rams, Stacy was upgraded from questionable to probable with a chest injury, but the defense wasn’t nearly as lucky. Bates may have to play through a hip injury, while corner Cortland Finnegan is hobbled by a thigh injury and didn’t practice all week.
Both quarterbacks have relied heavily on their tight ends. Greg Olsen leads Carolina with 23 receptions for 292 yards, and the same goes for the Rams' Jared Cook's 311 receiving yards and two touchdowns.
Point Spread: Carolina favored by 6 points
Over-Under: 42 points
Kickoff Time: 1 PM Eastern Time
Where To Watch Online: NFL Game Access
TV Channel: FOX
Prediction: Carolina 33, St. Louis 17