The Carolina Panthers seemed dead in the water 12 games into the 2012 NFL season at 3-9, but then caught fire to finish 7-9 on a four-game winning streak. Many considered Cam Newton‘s sophomore season to be a slump, but that’s primarily because he had such a sensational rookie season the year before. Although his numbers don’t jump off the page, Newton played incredibly well down the stretch in 2012 and the Panthers would have been a very dangerous team had they made the playoffs.
The key for Carolina in 2013 will be to qualify for the postseason, at which time all bets are off as even a 9-7 team can get hot and win the Super Bowl. Although it’s a long nine months before next season begins, the Panthers have to find a way to carry this momentum over to the upcoming 2013 campaign. That will require a lot of hard work in the offseason, primarily by Newton, to keep this team hot, which is no easy task, especially in the offseason.
The Panthers have a very young offense that is growing and gelling together, but continuing that growth is the hardest part in the NFL. Brandon LaFell made huge strides in 2012, as did Greg Olsen, and Carolina slowly figured out how to use their trio of running backs effectively along with a running quarterback in Newton. But it’s what Newton does to further that chemistry this offseason that will determine if the Panthers become a playoff contender or if they flirt with .500 again. Whether Newton embraces “that magical third season” remains to be seen.