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Is Cam Newton the greatest red-zone threat ever?

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The Carolina Panthers became just the 12th team since 1966 to start 11-0, yet they continue to be overlooked as an NFL power and Super Bowl favorite.

The issue some have with the Panthers is how they are winning games: with an overwhelming defense and bowl-you-over offensive attack. It's not pretty. It's just winning.

NFL Media analyst Michael Robinson discussed Sunday morning on NFL Network's GameDay First that he believes the Panthers are discounted in part because of who Cam Newton is, both in personality and playing style.

"Cam is getting disrespected, and you're right, he doesn't look like other 11-0 quarterbacks, because he's a black guy," Robinson said. "Let's just be honest. He dances, he does his thing and people ridicule him for doing that. When we just saw a piece on J.J. Watt and J.J.'s talking about how he's the best guy out there and he's disrespecting offensive linemen, but you don't hear the negative tone that way. You don't hear the negative tone when Johnny Manziel was in college and was doing the money sign and all that was fun and games then. But when Cam does it and he's leading an undefeated team, it's a problem and people totally forget the fact that he's giving the ball to a kid.

"I think it goes down to, Cam has what we call street credibility -- and I'm not saying he's on the street fighting or anything like that -- what I'm saying is, when he comes into the locker room, everybody is like 'whoa.' I think we saw a guy like this in Michael Vick, early in his career. He was that type of guy, but Mike couldn't handle everything that came along with the quarterback position, Cam is doing it. Cam is handling it. He's leading this team to an undefeated season. And I don't care about those numbers, I don't need fantasy football numbers, I need my quarterback to show up in the fourth quarter and in overtime and Cam Newton is showing up in the fourth quarter and in overtime."

There is a lot to unpack from Robinson's comments. Yes, Cam is unfairly judged because of his preening and celebrations -- the dumbest reason to criticize any football player in the history of critics. Those complaints are devoid of depth.

The Vick appraisal is actually more interesting -- Steve Young could be another on-field comparison.

Most analytical dismissals of Newton are based on his stats being middling among quarterbacks: 57.2 completion percentage (29th), 224.2 yards passing (23rd), 20 TD passes (T-9th), nine interceptions, 89.5 passer rating (19th).

That cheap take dismisses that Newton is playing with a subpar receiving corps and what the quarterback adds with his legs: 98 carries, 427 yards, seven rushing TDs. Only Tom Brady (30) and Carson Palmer (28) have more combined touchdowns than Newton (28).

"You look at Cam Newton, he may be the best red-zone threat our game has ever seen," Robinson said.

It's hard to argue there. Whenever the Panthers get close to the goal line, they are nearly unstoppable. Cam also allows "Riverboat Ron" the luxury of going for it on fourth-and-short. Newton has been money when the Panthers are behind, owning the second-highest passer rating in the NFL when trailing this season (110.7).

People can hate, dismiss, overlook or downplay the Panthers and their quarterback. In the end, winning is all that matters and they've been doing a whole lot of winning in Carolina.

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