After an odd 2012 season in which fans experienced many highs and lows with the Carolina Panthers, 2013 is a season filled with uncertainty. Head coach Ron Rivera saved his job by leading the team to a strong finish, but there’s no doubt he’s on the hot seat going forward. Arguably, the biggest thing against the Panthers, is the fact that they play in the NFC. It hasn’t garnered a whole lot of attention yet, but the NFC is going to be absolutely stacked next season.
So can Carolina take the next step and make a playoff push in loaded NFC ?
For that to happen, the franchise will have to hit an absolute home run in the upcoming draft, and Cam Newton will have to have another remarkable season. Newton has shown that he can carry the team on his back, but only so far. He can’t do it all, and clearly he needs more weapons.
The Panthers haven’t made a whole lot of noise in free agency, but they did add return specialist Ted Ginn Jr., who also figures to be in competition for playing time at receiver. He isn’t the greatest addition for Newton, but I think Ginn will be a solid contributor.
Most mock drafts have the team taking a defensive player with the 14th overall pick, so help for Newton and the offense will likely have to come later in the rounds. The Carolina-D was slightly better than middle of road last season, so adding key players early in the draft will be nearly as important as improving the offense. Safe to say, the team needs help all around.
Can they add enough young pieces to legitimately compete in 2013? The smart money is – no. The Panthers are likely a season or two away from ‘legitimate playoff contender’ status, especially in the loaded NFC. However, Carolina isn’t too far away from making the playoffs. If the right additions and tweaks are made, the Panthers could make a run at a wild card spot this year.
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