So how long should Carolina quarterback Cam Newton sit out?
I think the answer is pretty obvious.
If Carolina beats Tampa Bay, I expect Newton to start against Cleveland at home on Dec.21. We have repeatedly been told that Newton's back injury from Tuesday's "somebody's supposed to be dead" car crash is not something that's going to get worse by playing. If he can tolerate the pain, he can play the game.
Newton -- who has already been declared out for the Tampa game -- can certainly tolerate pain.
"He's got all kinds of bumps and bruises and has never said a word to anyone about anything," said quarterback Derek Anderson, and Anderson was referring to all the injuries Newton had before his truck flipped Tuesday.
If the Panthers lose Sunday, they will drop to 4-9-1. Although that wouldn't technically eliminate Carolina from playoff contention, realistically I think that would be it for the team's playoff hopes.
Atlanta and New Orleans (both 5-8 entering Sunday) would each have to go 1-2 in the final three games for Carolina to catch both of them at that point.
So if the Panthers lose to Tampa Bay, I would start Anderson (shown in the above picture celebrating with Greg Olsen after a TD vs. the Bucs in September) at least against Cleveland and likely at Atlanta, too, on Dec.28 to close out the season. Newton is too valuable a commodity to risk in meaningless games.
On the flip side, if Carolina wins Sunday, I would think Newton should and will play against Cleveland. That would be fun, wouldn't it? Newton vs. Johnny Manziel? The question would be which defensive lineman mimicked which quarterback's signature gesture first after a sack.
-- Watch for Carolina to try to play a fair amount of press coverage on Tampa Bay wide receiver Mike Evans. Like Kelvin Benjamin, Evans is a big rookie target that the Panthers believe should not get a free release off the line often.
"We just have to be physical with him," Panther safety Thomas DeCoud said. "Bigger-bodied guys may not change direction as well, especially off the press. We have to get our hands on those guys and be tight in coverage."
-- In the Panthers' first game against Tampa Bay, running back Jonathan Stewart rushed nine times for only 20 yards. But he's playing at a high level right now, and I wouldn't be surprised if Stewart had a second straight 100-yard game Sunday.
-- Prediction time. I never saw Carolina's 41-10 win over New Orleans coming, and if you did, please proceed directly to Vegas. That miss dropped my record to 7-5-1 predicting the Panthers on the season. Anderson is going to do enough Sunday to beat the Bucs a second time this year. My pick: Carolina 24, Tampa Bay 13.