BOSTON (CBS) -- Last week, Patriots fans got to relive the old days by rooting for Tom Brady, as he and his Bucs hosted the Buffalo Bills in Tampa. The Bucs won that game in OT, dropping the Bills a full two games behind the Patriots in the AFC East standings.
This week, New England fans can once again root for a former Patriots quarterback, as Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers head to Buffalo for a Week 15 matchup.
The Patriots do currently own a two-game lead in the division, but that situation can get a little hairy if the Patriots lose in Indianapolis in Saturday night. The Bills will visit Gillette the following week, and both teams could enter Week 17 with identical 9-6 records.
That can't happen, though, if the Bills lose to the Panthers on Sunday.
Rooting for a Bills loss this week feels like much less of a sure thing than last week, though, as the Panthers are not very good. Newton has not been great, either, getting benched two weeks ago and working in some sort of QB platoon last weekend. The Panthers won in Newton's first game of the year, when he played just nine snaps. Since he's become the starter, he and the Panthers have gone on a three-game losing streak.
Carolina allowed 27 points to Washington, 33 points to the Dolphins in Miami, and 29 points to the Falcons last weekend. After signing midseason with the Panthers, Newton has completed 44 of his 75 passes (58.7 percent) for 467 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions. He's rushed 26 times for 112 yards and four touchdowns as well.
Last year, Newton almost led the Patriots to a win -- or at least a tie to force overtime -- in Buffalo, but he had poor ball security and lost a fumble at the Buffalo 14-yard line with 33 seconds left in a game the Patriots trailed by three points. Newton was 15-for-25 for 174 passing yards with no touchdowns or picks that day, while he ran nine times for 54 yards and a touchdown, along with the costly fumble.
Newton had a rough one in Week 16 at home against the Bills on Monday Night Football later in the year, going just 5-for-10 for 34 yards, while rushing four times for 24 yards and a touchdown.
While Newton has been yanked off the field in recent weeks, head coach Matt Rhule (whose head coaching record is now at 10-19) told reporters that Newton remains the starting quarterback. Rhule didn't sound particularly encouraged by that situation, though.
"We are just looking for things not to be catastrophic," Rhule said Sunday.
The Panthers are now 5-8 this season, after starting the year 3-0. They have nothing to play for in terms of the playoffs, but both Rhule and Newton -- among others -- will be taking the field needing and wanting to prove themselves worthy of remaining employed in the NFL beyond the 2021 season. And with two games against the Buccaneers in the final three weeks, the wins won't come easy for Carolina.
Yet from New England, with a rematch against Buffalo looming in Week 16, and with Buffalo almost certain to own the tiebreaker if the Pats and Bills finish the year with the same record, the Patriots sure wouldn't mind seeing a vintage performance out of Cam Newton on Sunday afternoon in Orchard Park.
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