10 Players That Will Lead the Carolina Panthers to the 2013 Playoffs

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Carolina Panthers: 10 Players Who Will Lead Them to 2013 Playoffs

Panthers
John David Mercer - US PRESSWIRE

The 2012 season for the Carolina Panthers began with much optimism as the team had won four of their last six games from the year prior with franchise quarterback Cam Newton looking quite impressive in his record-breaking rookie season.

Not shy in displaying his enthusiasm for his team’s potential, Joe Namath-wannabe and Panther center Ryan Kalil even took out a full page ad in the Charlotte Observer stating that Carolina would go on to win Super Bowl XLVII.

However, the Panthers did little in support of the brazen Kalil ‘s guarantee and began the season with a disappointing 2-8 record.

Newton appeared to regress into a sophomore slump and left fans waning for the Cam of the year prior when the then rookie quarterback played like a seasoned veteran and dazzled fans with a rather dynamically balanced style of play. Questions began to surface as many wondered just how good Newton really was.

Nevertheless, Carolina did manage to rebound and win their last four games of the 2012 season. However, their 7-9 finish would not allow for the Panthers to prove Kalil right, as the team missed the playoffs and his called shot at winning Super Bowl XLVII, in which the Baltimore Ravens defeated the San Francisco 49ers 34-31.

Will the same optimism that the Panthers carried into 2012 be seen with this year’s Carolina squad? Are any more Joe Namath-wannabes going to come out of the woodwork with guarantees of the holy grail, of a Super Bowl season ridden with triumph and success?

In order for head coach Ron Rivera not to suffer the same fate as the seven NFL coaches who were fired last year, he cannot afford to have his team start the season similarly. Another 2-8 start would most likely spell doom and the end of Rivera’s tenure with the Panthers.

Instead, Carolina must get significant contributions from several key players if they hope to celebrate a potential playoff berth.

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#10 Captain Munnerlyn

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Geoff Burke - US PRESSWIRE

Carolina will be hoping for a repeat performance of Munnerlyn's big play ability, as Captain recorded two pick-sixes and nine pass deflections during the 2012 season.

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#9 Jon Beason

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Mark J. Rebilas - US PRESSWIRE

Beason will be looking to bounce back from two injury plagued seasons and return to his Pro Bowl form.

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#8 Jonathan Stewart

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Mike DiNovo - US PRESSWIRE

The Panthers will need Stewart to take some of the load off DeAngelo Williams and Cam Newton and do his part in the running game.

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#7 Greg Olsen

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Christopher Hanewinckel - US PRESSWIRE

Olsen led Carolina with five touchdown receptions and was second with 69 catches. He'll look to build on his rapport with Cam going into the 2013 season.

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#6 DeAngelo Williams

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Jeremy Brevard - US PRESSWIRE

Another member of Carolina's multidimensional running attack, Williams led the Panthers with 173 carries.

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#5 Steve Smith

real steve smith
John David Mercer - US PRESSWIRE

Newton's best deep threat and favorite wideout, Smith grabbed 73 receptions for over 1100 yards during last year's campaign.

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#4 Greg Hardy

Greggy
Jeremy Brevard - US PRESSWIRE

The Panthers will need some more of Hardy's outstanding defensive work as he managed 11 sacks to go along with his 61 tackles in 2012.

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#3 Charles Johnson

Charlie-Mon
Bob Donnan - US PRESSWIRE

Part of Carolina's ferocious two-man sack attack, Johnson will look to improve upon his impressive 2012 season where he recorded a team-high 12.5 sacks.

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#2 Luke Kuechly

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Mike DiNovo - US PRESSWIRE

Boston College standout and Carolina defensive cornerstone Luke Kuechly led Carolina with 165 tackles and earned the honor of Defensive Rookie of the Year. This young man will look to anchor the defense going forward in an effort that will hopefully prove worthy of making the 2013 playoffs.

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#1 Cam Newton

Cam
John David Mercer - US PRESSWIRE

2013 Playoffs? Well, if the Panthers want any chance, they'll need their franchise QB to lead the way.


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