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5 things the Carolina Panthers should be thankful for on Thanksgiving day

Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule has a lot less to be thankful for this season when it comes to the win column. The team continues its struggle to get back to the .500 mark and stay relevant for a possible playoff push. Outside of football, Rhule has one of the greatest people to be thankful for, at least in many sports fans' minds, to support the goals and aspirations of a professional football coach. Rhule recently spoke about the impact his wife Julie has had in helping create game-changing opportunities. "One of the greatest gifts a man can give to his kids is their mom," Rhule said.

"I got offered the job at Wilkes college a defensive coordinator ...and I had a chance to be a graduate assistant at UCLA ...and I remember Julie saying we need to go to UCLA."

Nonetheless, Rhule and his staff have much more to be thankful for despite the lack of wins.

5. Zane Gonzalez and the golden foot.

Gonzales, who currently boasts a .905 percent field goal average, landed on the Panthers roster after the team chose to dump Place Kicker Ryan Santoso after just one game. The move allowed Carolina to avoid having to send a 2022 seventh-round pick to the New York Giants. That move was preceded by the team previously releasing Joey Slye who made 54-of-68 field goals for the team during 2019 and 2020 seasons. Slye was released after missing a 49-yard field goal in the preseason finale. Gonzalez, however, has been perfect over the past seven games, going 19-of-21 since he arrived in Carolina. He also leads the NFL with 12 field goals of 40 or more yards.

Carolina Panthers Place Kicker Zane Gonzalez kicks field goal during the team's 2021 match at Atlanta Falcons
Photo by Kevin Tolbert

4. Healthy running back group.

The Panthers have been blessed with three unique running backs to add depth and variety to their rushing attack when efficiently distributed. The best showing of that was against the Atlanta Falcons when the team rushed for 203 yards on 47 attempts. The group now includes a healthy Christian McCaffrey who has garnered 407 yards in only 6 games along with Chuba Hubbard, who leads the team with 421 rush yards and Ameer Abdullah. Add Cam Newton to that mix, and you've got a running game nightmare for the Dolphins.

Christian McCaffrey breaks away from the defense during the team's 2021 matchup vs. the New York Jets
Photo by Kevin Tolbert

3. Bye week.

Although the Panthers' bye week is late in the schedule, it couldn't come at a better time. It will allow the team to reset after the Thanksgiving break and hopefully a win against the Dolphins on Sunday to bring the team's record back to .500. It will also give Cam Newton an extra week to get deeper into the playbook.

2. Haason Reddick is in beast mode.

Linebacker and team sacks leader Haason Reddick has been the most dominant force in the Panthers' defense this year. Although the team has struggled to stop the run this season giving up 1,216 yards to opposing offenses on the ground due to lackluster interior play, Reddick has helped keep the edges sealed and quarterback fearful of his position en route to registering 5 tackles, 1 sack and a QB hit in the team's 27-21 loss to Washington. Reddick leads the team with 10.5 sacks and 2 FF this season. The New Jersey native, who recently tweeted he would not have family in town to enjoy the holiday with him, also leads all NFC outside linebackers in voting for the Pro Bowl with more than 40,000 votes.

1. Cam Newton 2.0.

The dust is starting to settle on the Cam Newton arrival in Carolina. And after his first handful of full practices, everything looks to be coming together well regarding Newton's adjustments to the timing with the current offensive line personnel as well as the playbook. During his first two games Newton went 24-for-31 for 197 yards in the passing game. He hasn't thrown a single interception en route to three touchdowns. That is definitely something for Panthers head coach Matt Rhule to be thankful for.

Rhule and his 5-6 Carolina Panthers squad will travel to Miami this week to face the Dolphins who are on a three-game winning streak. The biggest challenge will be in reducing the top-ranked number of penalties the team has been hit with this season. The Panthers currently hold the top spot with 81 penalties in 2021. The other challenge is a surging Tua Tagovailoa who completed 27-of-33 passes for 273 yards, two touchdowns and one interception to beat the Jets last week. The last meeting between the two teams was a bonanza for the Panthers. The Dolphins fell to the Panthers 45-21 in 2017 at Bank of America stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The Panthers travel to south Florida this weekend to face the Miami Dolphins Sun, Nov 28 at 1:00 p.m. at Hard Rock Stadium.


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