The Crew got crazy enough to put out some predictions. Out of the 5 writers, who do you think predicted best? Leave a comment below.
This is a season has a lot of uncertainty; yet there is also a lot of potential. On the one hand, we were 12-4 last year without a lot of talent at the WR position. Yes, Steve Smith is the greatest Panther of all-time. But the 2013 Steve Smith was not the same Steve Smith of old. He was simply an old Steve Smith. He dropped a sure-fire TD that would have been the difference in the Arizona game (that I attended). And he only put up 4 TDs the entire season. I fully anticipate for our WRs to average more than the pedestrian 9 receptions per game we averaged a year ago. So there is room for optimism. But we also won a lot of close games that could have gone either way. Remember the squeakers against San Francisco, New England, Miami, New Orleans and Atlanta. Those 5 games were decided by a combined 14 points. Will we win the close ones again? The key questions are the offensive line and a banged up Cam Newton. Will we win the close games? I see us going 0-4 on Opening Day under Ron Rivera, but I also see us bouncing back Week 2 vs the Lions. I also see wins against Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Chicago, Minnesota, and Cleveland while splitting with New Orleans, Tampa and sweeping Atlanta. That puts my prediction for the season at 10-6. Hopefully that will be good enough to get us into the Dance.
Let’s face it. Ron Rivera is known for having a slow September and catching fire in October. This isn’t such a bad thing because you want your ball club improving as the season goes on. However, Rivera has the luxury of bringing a known, stifling defense into the 2014 campaign. With Cam’s ankle iffy and the offense breaking in another new set of WRs (as they did last year), I can easily see the Panthers getting off to another slow start again this year. The problem is that they have a very difficult stretch through the meat of the season and I just don’t see them winning 8 in a row again. That was quite a feat last year but you can’t count on extended winning streaks in today’s NFL. Offensively, they should be somewhat improved especially if Jonathan Stewart can stay healthy as he has all the tools you want, including 240 pound size. 12-4 is a pretty high ceiling for probably 29 of the NFL teams and the Panthers reached it last year, but the Law of Averages tells me a couple of the “squeakers” the Panthers won last year won’t quite go their way this year. In 2012, Atlanta was the “magical” team. Last year, Carolina was. In 2014, I have an uneasy feeling that will fall to the Saints. The Panthers will likely wind up the season every bit as good a team as they were last season, and perhaps even better due to a more talented passing attack, but they’ll be climbing a muddier mountain than last year and should have a few more setbacks (losses) than they endured in 2013. Ironically, I can see us beating the Seahawks, but losing two games would should win while the offense gels. The team’s largest issue, and one that is going to haunt the team all season long, is the dearth of talent on the ends of the offensive line. This will make the passing game literally hit-or-miss as Offensive Coordinator Mike Shula needs to get more creative in his play calls with moving pockets, rollout run/pass options, more play-action on early downs and/or short lines to gain, and being less predictable in general. I don’t see it happening and all three of the divisional opponents got better, not worse, since last year and the tougher schedule may be just enough for us to be on the outside looking in regarding the playoffs this season.
The Commish released an article today contending that the Panthers won’t win the NFC South again. Let’s just say, Panther Nation didn’t hold a parade for Ken as he brought up some more sobering characteristics and challenges facing this team. As I reflected on his piece, I thought it’s important to emphasize the verb Ken chose, “won’t.” Will or will not must account for outside factors related to other teams performances and capabilities. People who didn’t care for Ken’s piece had hoped for a different discussion, whether the Panthers can win the NFC South. The can or can’t discussion is one of hope and focused on Carolina’s internal fortitude. This is the type of discussion fans have when a team has glaring question marks surrounding its secondary, offensive line, and wide receivers. It’s a discussion where we can optimistically look to the surprisingly good K. Benjamin or to the stunning front seven to carry our hopes. The problem is when we move from the “cans” to the “wills.” Carolina “can” win the division. They “can” make the playoffs, but that doesn’t mean they will.
Carolina has a tough road ahead and it looks as if the outcome won’t be as pleasant as it was last year. So many prognosticators have easily stated that the Panthers will take a step back. I agree with them but for different reasons. Carolina won’t step back because their personnel is worse than last year. Carolina has actually improved at receiver and secondary, while making only minor downgrades at offensive line. Carolina’s defense alone will keep them in every game this season. Unfortunately for Rivera’s Panthers, the offense will have win a few games as well.
That Freakin Puerto Rican:
A year removed from 12-4 can the Panthers hope to repeat as NFC South champs? Yes it is possible. There is no doubt I am the ultimate homer when it comes to Carolina, but I need to remove all partiality from this prediction.
The entire division has improved. Whether by draft, free agency, new coaches, or just getting healthy every team is better than last year. Are the Panthers better than last year? I think certain position groups are better but there are many uncertainties going into this season. Cam’s health, offensive tackle and the secondary are all question marks, but can we once again capture the magic that carried us to the title last season?
I think we have improved but not to the degree of some of the other teams in the division. It is so hard for me to think we will not win the NFC South title, but I do believe we come in 2nd behind the Saints. We will make the playoffs, but it will be as a wild card.
The Carolina Panthers have a lot to live up to after going 12-4 last season. I think what I like best about last season is that teams now fear our defense. The analysts already doubt the Panthers ability to win games this season, but other NFL teams know that we are force to be wrecking with. I truly think that the Panthers improved on defense this season with the additions of Harper, Cason and Decoud. The front seven can now focus on getting to the quarterback and shutting down the run game. The offense is the big question though… but in a way it did improve. The Panthers have a new receiving core with Benjamin, Cotchery and Avant, and they all can be relied on. They will help the Panthers convert on third down and give our defense a break. However, once again the defense will carry the heavy workload and lead the Panthers to the wildcard with a 2nd place finish in the NFC South.
Crazy Prediction: Jonathan Stewart will have more rushing yards than Cam Newton
Sack Prediction: 70
Record Prediction: 10-6
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