The Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars feature one of the most improbable early-season matchups of 2019, one that has taken on added significance because of the improbable early success of their young quarterbacks.

Carolina quarterback Kyle Allen — good-naturedly nicknamed “Lovey Dovey” by Cam Newton because of Allen’s social media posts with his girlfriend — is 2-0 since Newton aggravated a Lisfranc injury on his left foot in Week 1. With a victory Sunday, he would become the first undrafted quarterback since 1999 (Kurt Warner) to win his first four starts.

Gardner Minshew has sparked “Minshew Mania” in Jacksonville after leading the Jaguars to a 2-1 record since starter Nick Foles broke his collarbone in the season opener. Fans have become captivated by Minshew’s 1970s-style mustache and headband, in addition to his carefree attitude.

The 23-year-old quarterbacks have made winning look easy in a season in which backups have a combined record of 9-6, including 4-1 last week. Of the 20 quarterbacks drafted in the sixth round or later or who went undrafted, and started at least three games within their first two seasons since 2000, they are among a group of only seven with winning records during that span, according to Stats & Information research.

Tom Brady, who went 2-1 in his first three starts after replacing Drew Bledsoe in 2001.

So as easy as Allen and Minshew have made winning look, looks can be deceiving. And both have no guarantees of staying power.

Trevor Siemian, who began 3-0 for Denver in 2016, has a 13-12 record and is a backup for the New York Jets. Matt Moore, who began the 2007 season at Carolina with a 2-1 record, is 15-15 and a backup for the Kansas City Chiefs. He knows it isn’t easy to do what Allen and Minshew are doing.

Christian McCaffreyLeonard Fournette is third with 404.

They both also play behind solid defenses — Carolina ranks fourth overall and is tied first in sacks; Jacksonville ranks 18th and is tied for sixth in sacks.

The running backs, in particular, help because they create more effective play-action situations to keep defenses guessing. As a result, Allen has six touchdown passes and no interceptions in his three starts. He has completed 67.8% of his passes, far better than the 57.4 by Brady in 2001.

Minshew has five touchdown passes and no picks. He has completed 69.4% of his passes, higher than Brady (62.1) this season.

Cleveland Browns

Washington Redskins do with rookie Dwayne Haskins, the 15th pick.

Panthers outside linebacker/defensive end Bruce Irvin

Irvin said Allen has a swag about him, as well. But outside of his “Lovey Dovey” nickname, which prompts some teammates to make a heart shape with their hands after the quarterback makes a big play, Allen is relatively invisible in Charlotte.

Allen, just like Minshew, is getting noticed for his success. And both are focused on continuing that, not nicknames and slogans.


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