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NFL: Newton gives Panthers hope against Packers

Associated Press
CHARLOTTE ó On paper itís the best versus the worst today when the Green Bay Packers visit the Carolina Panthers.
After all, the Packers are the defending Super Bowl champions and coming off a 42-34 win over the New Orleans Saints. The only thing the Panthers won last season was the No. 1 pick in the draft after finishing 2-14.
So Super Bowl MVP Aaron Rodgers, who carved up the Saints last week by completing 27 of 35 passes for 312 yards and three touchdowns, and the rest of the Packers should storm into Charlotte and shred the Panthers.
Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis doesnít think so, and heís heard enough about the champs this week.
ěMan, Iím tired of talking about Aaron Rodgers,î Davis said. ěWeíll line up and weíre going to compete as hard as we can and we should come away with a victory.î
It wasnít exactly a prediction, but itís still strong talk for a guy playing for a team that has lost 13 of its last 15 games.
But maybe itís all part of the Cam Newton factor.
Newton has re-energized the Charlotte region with his record-setting performance at Arizona, showing tremendous poise in the pocket and tying an NFL rookie mark with 422 yards passing. Heís given the organization hope it might have finally found a franchise quarterback.
Newton threw a pair of touchdowns to Steve Smith and ran for another against the Cardinals, but it wasnít enough as the Panthers lost 28-21 on a late 89-yard punt return by rookie Patrick Peterson.
Still, Davisí confidence represents a change in the overall attitude of this Panthers team under first-year coach Ron Rivera. The veterans are ready to change the perception of the Panthers being the leagueís doormat.
ěYou look back and our fans were excited about us being in the game against Arizona,î Davis said. ěWe went out and fully expected to win that game, just like we are going out and fully expect to win this game.
ěYou canít really go into a game thinking you donít have a chance or weíre close. This is the NFL and any given Sunday you can win a football game.î
Stopping Rodgers, whoís at the top of his game after an incredible finish last season, wonít be easy ó especially after the Panthers lost defensive leader Jon Beason last week for the season to a torn Achilles tendon. That means 2008 third-round draft pick Dan Connor will start in the middle for Carolina.
ěDan is a guy who has played in this system,î Davis said. ěHe knows how to play defense and heís a guy that has come in in the past and played well. So weíre expecting nothing different from Dan Connor.î
OTHER GAMES
Michael Vick thrilled Georgia Dome fans for six seasons. Many of them felt betrayed by subsequent events that led to Vick doing jail time for his role in a dogfighting ring. He returns as a starter to the dome today.
Elsewhere, it’s Seattle at Pittsburgh, San Diego at New England, Chicago at New Orleans, Baltimore at Tennessee, Kansas City at Detroit, Jacksonville at the New York Jets, Oakland at Buffalo, Tampa Bay at Minnesota, Cleveland at Indianapolis, Dallas at San Francisco, Arizona at Washington, Houston at Miami, and Cincinnati at Denver.
On Monday night, St. Louis is at the New York Giants.

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