X-FACTOR: Carolina quarterback Cam Newton

Carolina quarterback Cam Newton is one win from carrying the Panthers to the NFC South title.

The Falcons, the team the College Park native rooted for as a child, stands in his way.

Newton, who’s coming off a clutch performance last week against the Saints, is the X-Factor for Sunday’s regular-season finale at the Georgia Dome.

The Panthers trailed the Saints 13-10 with 55 seconds to play with the ball at their 35. Newton promptly drove the Panthers for the game-winning touchdown. He completed passes of 37, 14 and 14 yards in the drive, tossing a 14-yard touchdown to Domenik Hixon with 23 seconds to play.

“He’s matured throughout this whole season,” Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis said. “If you look at him from where he was last year to where he is now, it’s night and day.”

Newton showed flashes over his first two seasons, but the Panthers continued to lose. Now, the Panthers are 11-4 and playoff bound.

“He was already a good player to start with,” Davis said. “He was a really good player, and he’d accomplished a lot in his first two years. But you can see the growth without a doubt in his third year. We’re excited to have him leading our team right now.”

Newton has completed 277 of 446 passes (62.1 percent) for 3,240 yards, 22 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He has a passer rating of 89.3 and has directed the Panthers to 10 wins over their past 11 games.

“He’s not making mistakes,” Davis said. “He’s not making the crucial mistakes that costs us football games. He’s taking what the defense is giving him, and we’ve been winning football games with that.”

Newton is 2-3 in starts against the Falcons and has won the past two meetings.

“I think a lot of people forget where he’s coming from,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. “He only had one year at a major college as a starter. He’s where you’d hope he would be at this point in his career.”