Cam Newton came into the third preseason game for the Panthers, and he led the team on a successful drive. This drive has ensured that the Panthers have their starting quarterback for the season, and he has proven that he can return to form this season. We have 16 games to learn if he is truly back, but it looks as though he has returned to form for the 2017 season.

The tightest division in football

The NFC South is by far the toughest division in football right now, and it has four teams with four very good quarterbacks. Newton must be in good shape because the Panthers will be embarassed if he is not in fine form.

They could be in for a long season, and they may not be able to recover if they start poorly. They must keep up with the Falcons -- who look poised to return to the Super Bowl -- and they must dodge the Saints, where Drew Bree's could throw for 5000 yards.

Performance matters

Newton has performed well in the preseason, and that is all that the Panthers need to see. They must make progress as they try to fight off the rest of their division, and they must keep Newton healthy. He is too young to be injured this much, and he must be given new schemes that will see him passing more, running less, and hit less. Newton is not afraid to be hit, but he should be given the recovery he just went through.

I worry about Cam

Cam Newton came into the NFL with an offense that was so uncomplicated we laughed at him, and he has become an NFL MVP using an offense that is simplified. The simplified offense puts him out there where he can use his feet, but he is too big to be hit that much. Ben Roethlisberger has been hit this much, and he is thinking about retirement because he has been banged up so much.

I believe that the Panthers have a couple more good years of Cam if he keeps getting hit like this, but they have several more years of him if they can cut down on the hits that he takes every Sunday. His personality is fun-loving and happy, and it appears that he plays that way on the field. The problem comes when he allows his personality to take over for his common sense.

The Falcons are better

The Falcons are still a better team, and I believe that they will win the division, have a high seed in the playoffs, and push the Panthers down to the bottom. The Panthers are strong in that they have a good coach and roster, but they have changed their GM, changed their team philosophy, and the only person left will be Cam. If he is hurt, it will not matter what changes they make.