The 2016 Carolina Panthers fell from the highest rung in the NFC, crashing straight through the floor into the cellar of their division.
The quarterback has gone three straight games with a completion percentage under 50, the longest streak of his career. His 54.7 completion percentage this season ranks 31st of 32 qualified QBs. Newton has earned a career-low passer rating of 80.6 this season, ranking 27th in the NFL among 32 qualifying QBs. He is on pace for the worst passer rating by a reigning MVP since Steve McNair in 2004 (73.1 passer rating). Newton has one game with a passer rating over 100.0 this season -- had eight games last season with a passer rating over 100.0.
Even his rushing has cratered. Newton has 286 rush yards this year and is on pace for a career-low 416 rush yards -- his previous career-low was 539 rush yards in 2014.
"It's challenging,'' Newton said of this year. "It's extremely challenging. It's humbling as well. But yet you still have to keep getting better.''
The Panthers faced many challenges this season after losing several veteran leaders, revamping a secondary with rookies and losing key offensive linemen for long stretches.
After three straight NFC South titles, the Panthers were slapped in the face by the cold, hard hand of 2016. Newton believes a new year can bring a turnaround.
"I do know we've set a standard here," Newton said. "(This season is) unacceptable. I'll be the first one to tell you, it is."