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Cam Newton: I'm playing the best football of my career

Cam Newton won the 2015 MVP award and took a team to the Super Bowl. The Carolina Panthers quarterback, however, believes he's played the best ball of his career this season.

"Honestly, I feel like I'm playing the best football of my career," he said Wednesday, via Jourdan Rodrigue of the Charlotte Observer. "Straight-up. I just feel in control. There's no question marks. My assuredness of every single play, I know exactly what I'm supposed to do. ... It's just, I don't want to sound like that, but I know my worth. I know who I am. ... That's all personal. And that comes with preparation.

"I feel like, when somebody is at their best and facing me, and I'm at my best, we win. You know what I'm saying?"

The stats back up Newton's statement. Under coordinator Norv Turner, the Panthers QB is on pace for a career-high 69.6 completion percentage (previous high was 61.7 in 2013) and passing yards (3,925.8). Newton has earned a 100-plus passer rating in eight of 11 games, including the past six straight.

Playing with a cast of catch-and-run demons in Christian McCaffrey, D.J. Moore, and Curtis Samuel, the Panthers offense has gotten the ball out of Newton's hands quickly and upped his efficiency. There might not be a bevy of deep shots, but the Carolina offense hasn't lacked for explosive plays.

The issue for Newton is that his improved play hasn't led to wins, with the Panthers currently mired in a three-game losing streak.

"[In the past when I was playing my best], I was rewarded with victories," Newton said. "Now, it's tougher that we're not winning... The selfish me would have been like, 'Oh, I'm good. We ain't losing because of me. But that's not where I am right now in my career."

The Panthers losses have come as Ron Rivera's defense has disappeared. During their three-game losing streak, the Panthers pass defense has allowed an NFL-worst 8-0 TD-INT ratio and a 128.6 passer rating, second-worst in the NFL from Weeks 10-12, per Next Gen Stats.

The Panthers have failed to pressure the QB during their three-game slide:

Weeks 1-9: 32.4 percent pressure rate (2nd in NFL)
Weeks 10-12: 20.2 percent pressure rate (26th in NFL)

The lack of pass rush has put increased pressure on the Panthers' defensive backs, who have struggled in recent weeks.

Panthers CBs: 144.8 passer rating allowed in Weeks 10-12 - 84.2 in Weeks 1-9
Panthers safeties: 149.8 passer rating allowed in Weeks 10-12 - 109.6 in Weeks 1-9.

Facing a potent Buccaneers offense on Sunday won't make life any easier on the Panthers D.

Newton will likely need to win a shootout in Tampa to end the Panthers' three-game skid.

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