C3 Mock 3.0: Picks 49-56

C3 Mock 3.0: Picks 49-56

Draft week is here, and C3’s Mock Draft 3.0 is here.  This version takes is our final version and is our predictions of what we think will happen and we are not allowing for any trades. Smokewagon is back making his picks along with me in the First Round.  We each give insight as to why we think each one makes sense.  And as usual, we look at some of these selections from a Panthers Fan point of view, but no matter who you are a fan of, take a look and let us know your thoughts.  You can follow me on twitter at @PanthersDrafter and Smokewagon (@SamSslater96)

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C3 Up, Three Down Week 3: Steelers forge victory in convincing fashion

Three Things the Carolina Panthers Did Well

This week it was very hard to figure out what the Carolina Panthers did well. The way the Panthers played on both sides of the ball against the Pittsburgh Steelers was embarrassing. This was the one game I had no doubt that we were going to win. Panther Nation is speechless after this loss and embarrassed. I had to turn into Sherlock Holmes just to find the answers to what three things the Panthers did well. 

So what did Sherlock Homes come up with?

1. Attitude – Cam Newton took a beating in the pocket all night. Every time he stepped back to make a throw, he was getting hit by someone on the Steelers. Newton was sacked three times and was hit six times.  But he got up every time, stayed in the pocket and tried to make the play. Newton reminded me of the lyrics from a song by Chumbawama called “Get Knocked Down.” This is my version… “Cam Newton got knocked down, but he got up again, and you’re never going to keep him down!”

2. “Megatron Jr.” – Kelvin Benjamin continues to impress NFL defenses and fantasy football team owners with his catching ability. He finished the game with eight catches for 115 yards and one touchdown. Newton needs to throw the ball his way a lot more. Benjamin is reliable and can’t be covered one-on-one.

3. “The Leg” – Brad Nortman has one of the strongest legs in the NFL and he showed it Sunday night. He punted the ball a career-high 65 yards and averaged 52.5 yards per punt. His punting pinned the Steelers further back in their zone, but it didn’t matter because the Panthers defense took the night off. Nortman will play a key part in the success of the Panthers special teams as the season goes on.

By +Justin Raymond
Follow me on Twitter @JayRay19

Three Things the Panthers Did Poorly

There are games that are just not meant to be won. Games where you come out and no matter how hard the effort you put forth, it is just not going to be enough. This was the case on Sunday night, Carolina was not going to win this game. As hard as they fought, with all their concentrated effort, this game was determined before it played out on the field.

There were many things the Panthers did not do well in this matchup. There were all kinds of mistakes made by players and coaching staff. But here we will select three of the most significant failures against the Steelers.

1. The lack of running plays called: I don't know exactly the reasoning for this, but I have said since before training camp began: the success of this season will be predicated on establishing an effective run game. Having an effective run game puts less emphasis on a weak pass blocking offensive line. Shula needs to really make a commitment and run the ball. Even if the running game is not totally effective it will be something for the defense to think about and cause the front seven to have to consider something other than getting to Cam Newton. A real running game will alleviate the pressure off Cam and give the offensive line a chance to win some of those battles. Taking the pressure off Cam will equal a better Cam and in turn a better Carolina Panthers team,

2. Offensive Line- The offensive line certainly did play their worst game of the season. All of them across the board play very poorly. Even all pro center Ryan Kalil  looked lost and confused. I know part of this is because the Panthers offensive line is young and has not played against the exotic blitzes and unique schemes created by the mind of Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. This defense confused and confounded the Panthers and they were never able to get on track. A running game I think would have helped both the offense and the defense. But we will see if Mike Shula sees the error of his ways and can make a running attack part of our game plan.

3. Defense- Never did I think the entire defense would make this list. But that is just the case after this game. The Steelers came out and basically had their way with this highly ranked Panthers defense. Big Ben and the offense seemed only slightly impaired by The Panthers. Giving up 37 points, 100 yards rushing to TWO (2) different running backs Bell and Blount, and 10 receptions to Antonio Brown. Now these are all good players for sure, but we made the look like hall of famers. It was embarrassing watching failure after failure by our defensive unit. The pressure really was not there by the front seven and Big Ben was able to pick apart the shaky Panthers secondary. After 2 games of looking so good, I believe Panthers fans had come to believe this team was better as a whole than the individual talents that had been assembled by management. After this game Panthers fans have some real evaluating to do.

Was this game an anomaly or is the Panthers team we have to look forward to for the rest of the season? I don't know the answer to that but I do know we won't have long until we find out. The schedule is getting ready to enter the toughest part and it will be a trial by fire for the next several games. I only hope the team we saw in weeks 1 and 2 are the real Panthers, because the team that played Sunday night against Pittsburgh is not even a .500 team.        

By +Joe Riollano 
Follow that Freak'n Puerto Rican @JoeRiollano                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

C3 Season Predictions

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. 

Mel Mayock:  

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.

Prediction: 10-6

The Commish:

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.

Prediction: 9-7

The Professor:

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.  

Prediction: 9-7

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.

Prediction: 10-6

Justin Raymond

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