The Panthers have been in a vicious cycle for the last 5 years of a winning season, followed by a losing season, followed by another winning season. The Panthers have the talent on both sides of the ball to return to the playoffs, but they will have to see decent production from rookies Christian McCaffery and Curtis Samuel. Potential steal Taylor Moton could also play a vital role as a starting tackle, or as depth after Michael “Blind Side” Oher was released. The Panthers’ biggest struggle last season was pass defending, as rookie corner Daryl Worley struggled to adjust to the NFL, and fellow rookie corner played well, but was injured for part of the season. Both played quite well near the end of the season, so should be a solid CB tandem for the Panthers this season. The Panthers will also have to protect Cam Newton better and get the ball out of his hands faster into the hands of rookie play makers McCaffery and Samuel. The Panthers suffered from a large amount of losses by 6 points or fewer last season and should be primed for a big rebound year.
Schedule walk through
Week 1: @ San Francisco
The 49ers are at rock bottom of their rebuild, and should be an easy win for the Panthers and allow the Panthers to gain some confidence. 38-6 Panthers (1-0)
Week 2: VS. Buffalo
The Bills should have a healthy Watkins and should prove to be a tougher opponent, but the Panthers are the more talented team at home, so this should be a win. 24-10 Panthers (2-0)
Week 3. VS. New Orleans
The Saints have some serious potential this season if Marshon Lattimore can stay healthy, and are a division opponent, but the Panthers should pull out a victory at home. 42-31 Panthers (3-0)
Week 4. @ New England
This will be a major test game to see how good this year’s Panthers really are. The Patriots have an incredibly talented team and a great coach. I can’t predict the Panthers to win at the Patriots, but it will be close. 31-24 Patriots (3-1)
Week 5. @ Detroit
I expect the Lions to take a big step back this season due to the amount of close games they won last season, but I predict that they pull out an upset here at home. 24-23 Lions (3-2)
Week 6. VS. Philadelphia
Philadelphia has a promising future but isn’t good enough yet to beat the Panthers in Carolina. 35-17 Panthers (4-2)
Week 7. @ Chicago
The Bears have some exciting young talent but won’t be good enough for the Panthers, even in Chicago. 28-10 Panthers (5-2)
Week 8. @ Tampa Bay
Both teams should have high-powered, exciting offenses this season and Tampa Bay is on the rise, but the Panthers should have the better defense and pull out the victory. 35-28 Panthers (6-2)
Week 9. VS. Atlanta
Atlanta has a highly talented roster but may suffer from a slow start this season. The Panthers should be able to win a tough game at home. 31-28 Falcons (7-2)
Week 10. VS. Miami
Miami may be in the playoff hunt at this point, but the Panthers have more talent on both sides of the ball and should win at home. 35-24 Panthers (8-2)
Week 12. @ NYJ
The Jets may be the worst team in the league this season and should prove no match for the Panthers. 42-6 Panthers (9-2)
Week 13. @ New Orleans
The Saints have enough talent that they should be able to split the season series with the Panthers with a home victory. 35-27 Saints (9-3)
Week 14. VS. Minnesota
The Vikings could have a very good team this season, but the Panthers should be able to win at home. 24-21 Panthers (10-3)
Week 15 VS. Green Bay
This should be a sort of NFC clash of the titans (mythological not Tennessee), and Aaron Rodgers may be able to lead the Packers to a victory in Carolina. 28-27 Packers (10-4)
Week 16 VS. Tampa Bay
The Bucs should be a good team this season and may need to win this game to keep their playoff hopes alive. The Bucs may pull out an upset away from home. 31-27 Buccaneers (10-5)
Week 17 @ Atlanta
At best for the Falcons, this is the division championship game in this scenario. At worst they have already been eliminated from the playoffs. Seeking some momentum and pissed off after two straight losses, Carolina wins this nail-biter. 24-23 Panthers (11-5)
Cam Newton: Look for Cam to bounce back from his worst season with most accurate season yet. Shorter passes to rookies Curtis Samuel and Christian McCaffery should boost Cam’s efficiency. Look for Cam to return to SuperCam form and possibly enter the MVP discussion.
Luke Kuechly: Kuechly should return to his pedestal as the top linebacker in the league this season, and have a healthy year.
Surprise Stars: Second-year corner James Bradberry should improve on his impressive rookie play logging a solid 4 interceptions, returning the Panthers DB core to the levels expected of Thieves Ave.
Look for third-year linebacker Shaq Thompson to have a breakout season.
Rookie slot receiver and speedster Curtis Samuel should have a big season, especially for fantasy owners as both a deep threat and a consistent underneath option for Cam Newton.
Expect the Panthers to rebound this year and flip their record backward. The Panthers should be primed to make some noise in the playoffs and should be a dangerous team this season.