When a star quarterback goes down with an injury, and his backup comes in to lead the team to an undefeated run, whose job is it when the starter is healed?
Welcome to Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera’s world.
Kyle Allen has led the big, black cats to four straight victories since stepping in for Cam Newton, including last Sunday’s 37-26 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in London. Allen methodically led the Panthers by completing 20 of 32 passes for 227 yards and two touchdowns, and in four starts has completed 65.6 percent of his passes for 901 yards with seven touchdowns and no interceptions and a 106.6 quarterback rating.
Overall, he’s 5-0 as a starter.
With the team getting its bye week after the trip across the pond, it’s conceivable Newton will be better by Oct. 27, when the Panthers visit San Francisco. Rivera has stated the job is Newton’s, but even he couldn’t have imagined Allen would respond as he has under center.
The supporting cast hasn’t hurt, either.
Running back Christian McCaffrey and wide receiver Curtis Samuel each had a rushing and receiving touchdown in the Panthers’ win over Tampa Bay, becoming the third pair of teammates to each record a rushing and receiving touchdown in the same game since 1980 and first since Nov. 10, 2013, when New Orleans Saints running backs Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas achieved the feat.
On defense, the Panthers registered seven sacks and five interceptions in the win, becoming the first team with at least seven sacks and five picks in a single game since the Dolphins did it back in 1998.
Quite frankly, the defense has been stellar during the four-game win streak, compiling 23 sacks and generating 14 turnovers.
Everything is working right now for the Panthers, who have a +33 point differential. The only question is, when Carolina invades Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, who will be calling the signals?
I was the one sending smoke signals last Sunday, after opening the day 3-1, and ending up 3-3. That means I lost juice. Let’s take a look at this week’s games.
Texans +1 at Colts: Welcome to the show Carlos Hyde. It seems like every week I’m talking about someone different with this Houston team. Off an impressive win against Kansas City, the Texans are in front of Indy by one-half game in the AFC South, so this is an important road trip.
Loaded with talent on both sides of the ball, rather than boasting one star, I’ll gladly back the balanced road pups in this one. TEXANS
Dolphins at Bills -17: Hapless Miami will play seven of its final 11 games on the road, where it’s mired in a 3-13 ATS slide. After losing their first five games by an average of 27.6 points, the Dolphins are going to struggle against the league’s third-best defense overall.
The home team has covered 8 of 11 meetings, and at 4-1 this season, Buffalo will be looking to stay relevant among playoff hopefuls. BILLS
Jaguars -3 at Bengals: Jacksonville’s Leonard Fournette had 118 yards from scrimmage in last week’s 13-6 loss to New Orleans. This week he’ll run roughshod through the winless Bengals, who have the league’s worst rushing defense that is allowing an average of 184.5 yards per game.
Cincinnati has failed to cover 7 of 8 at home, and with Jacksonville looking to avenge last week, this number looks cheap. JAGUARS
49ers at Redskins +10: Yikes! Dare I say, with a win under the Redskins’ belt, a new coach and a home game against a team that has to travel across the country for the first time in more than a month and could be looking ahead to the Panthers, I’m playing the double-digit home ‘dog. REDSKINS
Chargers at Titans -2.5: I’m not sure if this play is on Tennessee or against Los Angeles. The Bolts’ defense ranking seventh overall is a farce, as I’ve seen this unit fail to tackle efficiently more times than not. Tennessee bounces back from a debacle in Denver. TITANS
Ravens at Seahawks -3.5: Seattle is 5-1 but is chasing NFC West division-leading San Francisco. Fact is, the Seahawks are quietly emerging as one of the best teams in football thanks to an MVP-like season from Russell Wilson. This trip will be too much for the black birds. SEAHAWKS
Last week: 3-3