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NFL insider notebook: Cam Newton-Panthers reunion a win-win, plus Rodgers gets off easy and Week 10 picks

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Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer and head coach Matt Rhule realized shortly after Carolina’s 24-6 loss to New England on Sunday that they’d need some help at quarterback.

Then the MRI came back on Sam Darnold’s shoulder and showed he’d miss at least a month and maybe longer. So Tuesday night, Cam Newton got a call from the organization he once lifted to national relevance. On Wednesday night, they started talking money and arranged travel back to Charlotte.

On Thursday, Newton was back at Bank of America Stadium. He walked the field to the end zone, knelt at the goal post like he did during every pregame warmup from 2011 until his release in 2020 and said a prayer.

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Cam Newton is back in Carolina because the Panthers believe they can make the playoffs. And David Tepper, now in his fourth season of Panthers ownership with three losing seasons already, has told people in the building that they have one goal and it is to make the playoffs this year.

Cam Newton is back in Carolina because the Panthers were desperate. Darnold wasn’t their first (Matthew Stafford) or second (Deshaun Watson) choice in the offseason, but he was the veteran quarterback they believed they could nab. They, of course, were in that position because Teddy Bridgewater’s poor play in the four-minute offense showed to Tepper that this team wouldn’t compete for a playoff spot with the now-Denver QB.

And Cam Newton is back in Carolina because he wants to be. I’m told Newton was “eager to get back,” according to a team source. He wasn’t going to play for nothing, and the Panthers cap guru Samir Suleiman had to get creative with the one-year deal that will pay Newton up to $10 million if he can win them Super Bowl LVI.

Things between Newton and the team didn’t end in flames. Breaking up is hard, and the Panthers probably want a redo on some things said and done in 2020. But the building didn’t leak negative stories about Newton following his departure to try to explain his release. The story was simply: his shoulder isn’t healthy, the team didn’t want to roll the dice on it another year and it was probably time for a fresh start.

The relationship was always repairable; Carolina just had to pick up the phone.

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In the past few weeks it’s become clear that Darnold is a dud. In the past week it became clear the Panthers had to get Newton.

I won’t be surprised if Newton is active Sunday against the Cardinals as either an emergency player or subbing in for some special packages. I’d expect Newton to have a decent enough understanding of the offense to provide a better alternative to P.J. Walker by next week, and he should be the starter when Carolina plays host to Washington in Week 11.

Craving even more NFL coverage focusing on previews, recaps, news and analysis? Listen below and follow the Pick Six podcast for a daily dose of everything you need to follow pro football.

Rodgers, Packers get off easy

If you read this column last week you weren’t surprised by the light punishment received by Aaron Rodgers.

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Rodgers was docked $14,650 — and only $14,650 — for violating COVID-19 protocols. The league decided his violation was the Halloween party, whereas the team was fined $300,000 for all the maskless press conferences, plus the Halloween party. No suspension. No loss of draft picks. Not even $14,650 times the number of times he violated the policy.

It’s because the league essentially said ‘oopsies.’ The NFL knew Rodgers was unvaccinated, just like the Packers knew he was unvaccinated. And they let him violate protocols in front of everyone, just like they allowed Kirk Cousins and several other unvaccinated players.

The league could only punish Rodgers so far because it, too, was culpable. And it gave a stern warning that it’ll be much worse if the Packers or Rodgers keep messing up.

Moving forward, Rodgers will likely be on a Zoom or masked during in-person press conferences for the rest of the season.

Week 10 picks

I beat my previous week, but just barely in Week 9 with an 8-6 slate. That brings my season record up to 89-47. Those wacky games last week threw me, and I’ll just have to be better this week. Of course I took the Ravens on Thursday.

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Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
TV: CBS | Stream: Paramount+ (click here)

The Browns would be my pick if they had their complement of running backs for this game. But they’ll be without Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, and New England’s defense is starting to round into Belichick Form. I still believe in Cleveland, just not in this one.

The pick: Patriots.

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
TV: CBS | Stream: Paramount+ (click here)

The past few weeks I’ve been banking on the Titans to be bested by fatigue. Either the fatigue of coming off a short week following a big win against the Bills, or the fatigue of an overtime game against a division rival, or just the roster fatigue after suffering the loss of Derrick Henry. They’ve won four straight against good-to-great teams. That won’t stop now.

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The pick: Titans

Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET
TV: CBS | Stream: Paramount+ (click here)

Denver’s coming off a big surprise win last week against Dallas, and Philadelphia is surely going to give up high-percentage completions to Teddy Bridgewater. But I like what the Eagles’ offense has started to do lately, and as long as Jalen Hurts doesn’t turn the football over, I think they have a chance. I may regret this but …

The pick: Eagles

Sunday, 4:25 p.m., CBS
TV: CBS | Stream: Paramount+ (click here)

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A game with big returns. The Return of Russell Wilson. The Return of Aaron Rodgers. As a Tar Heel, I’ve known for more than a decade to never bet against Russ. Even his doctor marvels at his supernatural ability.

The pick: Seahawks

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How to watch Appalachian State vs. James Madison: NCAA Football live stream info, TV channel, time, game odds

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Who’s Playing

James Madison @ Appalachian State

Current Records: James Madison 2-0; Appalachian State 2-1

What to Know

The James Madison Dukes watched the action from their couches last weekend, but are set to take to the field. James Madison and the Appalachian State Mountaineers will face off in a Sun Belt battle at 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Kidd Brewer Stadium. The odds don’t look promising for the Dukes, but the bigger the opponent is, the harder they fall.

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A well-balanced attack led James Madison over the Norfolk State Spartans every single quarter on their way to victory two weeks ago. James Madison claimed a resounding 63-7 win over Norfolk State at home. The game was pretty much decided by the half, when the score had already reached 35 to nothing.

Meanwhile, Appalachian State didn’t have too much breathing room in their contest with the Troy Trojans last week, but they still walked away with a 32-28 victory. Appalachian State QB Chase Brice was slinging it as he passed for two TDs and 279 yards on 34 attempts. Near the top of the highlight reel was Brice’s 53-yard TD bomb to WR Christan Horn in the fourth quarter.

Their wins bumped the Dukes to 2-0 and the Mountaineers to 2-1. Watch the matchup and check back on CBS Sports to find out who keeps up the positive energy and who hits a stumbling block.

How To Watch

  • When: Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET
  • Where: Kidd Brewer Stadium — Boone, North Carolina
  • TV: ESPN Plus
  • Online streaming: fuboTV (Try for free. Regional restrictions may apply.)
  • Follow: CBS Sports App
  • Ticket Cost: $40.99

Odds

The Mountaineers are a solid 6.5-point favorite against the Dukes, according to the latest college football odds.

The oddsmakers had a good feel for the line for this one, as the game opened with the Mountaineers as a 7.5-point favorite.

Over/Under: -111

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See college football picks for every single game, including this one, from SportsLine’s advanced computer model. Get picks now.

Series History

This is the first time these teams have played each other within the last seven years.



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UTSA vs. Texas Southern: How to watch NCAA Football online, TV channel, live stream info, game time

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Who’s Playing

Texas Southern @ UTSA

Current Records: Texas Southern 1-2; UTSA 1-2

What to Know

The Texas Southern Tigers will take on the UTSA Roadrunners at 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Alamodome. Texas Southern isn’t favored, but they just beat the odds in their last game, so don’t count them out.

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The Tigers kept a clean sheet against the Southern University Jaguars last week and took the matchup 24 to nothing. The squad ran away with 21 points in the first half and mostly just sat on those in the second to pick up the victory.

Meanwhile, it was all tied up 17-17 at halftime, but UTSA was not quite the Texas Longhorns’ equal in the second half when they met last week. The Roadrunners suffered a grim 41-20 defeat to the Longhorns. This contest was a close 17-17 at the break, but unfortunately for UTSA it sure didn’t stay that way. A silver lining for them was the play of RB Brenden Brady, who threw one touchdown in addition to punching in one rushing touchdown.

Texas Southern’s win lifted them to 1-2 while UTSA’s loss dropped them down to 1-2. We’ll find out if the Tigers can add another positive mark to their record or if UTSA can shake off the defeat and take the spring out of Texas Southern’s step.

How To Watch

  • When: Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET
  • Where: Alamodome — San Antonio, Texas
  • TV: STADIUM
  • Follow: CBS Sports App
  • Ticket Cost: $69.00

Odds

The Roadrunners are a big 42-point favorite against the Tigers, according to the latest college football odds.

Bettors have moved against the Roadrunners slightly, as the game opened with the Roadrunners as a 44-point favorite.

Over/Under: -110

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See college football picks for every single game, including this one, from SportsLine’s advanced computer model. Get picks now.

Series History

This is the first time these teams have played each other within the last seven years.



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North Carolina vs. Notre Dame live stream info, TV channel: How to watch NCAA Football on TV, stream online

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Who’s Playing

Notre Dame @ North Carolina

Current Records: Notre Dame 1-2; North Carolina 3-0

What to Know

The North Carolina Tar Heels will be returning home after a two-game road trip. They will take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Kenan Memorial Stadium after a week off. UNC is expected to win — but not by much — so they will need to come into the game prepared for a fight.

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The Tar Heels beat the Georgia State Panthers 35-28 two weeks ago. Among those leading the charge for UNC was RB Omarion Hampton, who rushed for two TDs and 110 yards on 16 carries. Hampton put himself on the highlight reel with a 58-yard TD scramble in the third quarter.

Meanwhile, Notre Dame netted a 24-17 victory over the California Golden Bears last week. RB Audric Estime and RB Chris Tyree were among the main playmakers for Notre Dame as the former punched in one rushing touchdown and the latter snatched one receiving TD.

Notre Dame’s defense was a presence as well, as it embarrassed California’s offensive line to sack QB Jack Plummer six times for a total loss of 47 yards. It was a group effort with four guys contributing.

The wins brought the Tar Heels up to 3-0 and the Fighting Irish to 1-2. A pair of stats to keep an eye on: UNC enters the matchup with 310 passing yards per game on average, good for 21st best in the nation. But Notre Dame comes into the contest boasting the 34th fewest passing yards allowed per game in the nation at 184. These opposing strengths should make for an exciting matchup.

How To Watch

  • When: Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET
  • Where: Kenan Memorial Stadium — Chapel Hill, North Carolina
  • TV: ABC
  • Online streaming: fuboTV (Try for free. Regional restrictions may apply.)
  • Follow: CBS Sports App
  • Ticket Cost: $110.00

Odds

The Tar Heels are a slight 2.5-point favorite against the Fighting Irish, according to the latest college football odds.

The line on this game has moved quite a bit since it opened, as it started out with the Fighting Irish as a 1.5-point favorite.

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Over/Under: -110

See college football picks for every single game, including this one, from SportsLine’s advanced computer model. Get picks now.

Series History

Notre Dame have won all of the games they’ve played against North Carolina in the last eight years.

  • Oct 30, 2021 – Notre Dame 44 vs. North Carolina 34
  • Nov 27, 2020 – Notre Dame 31 vs. North Carolina 17
  • Oct 07, 2017 – Notre Dame 33 vs. North Carolina 10



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