Evaluating Carolina Panthers' Division Title Odds

By Thomas Emerick
Captain Munnerlyn versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Captain Munnerlyn leads a rag-tag group of Carolina Panthers defensive back into the 2013 season. While Munnerlyn was recently named as the Carolina “Secret Superstar” by Pro Football Focus, this overall concept spells bad things for Carolina, which is tied for worst NFC South title odds at certain venues with +600 odds.

However, it’s important to evaluate just how bad this secondary will be, because if Cam Newton can perform like he did down the stretch, then the Panthers may possess enough other components to compete in this division after a 7-9 finish in 2012, tied for second in the NFC South.

“With Gamble retiring, Panthers fans should be happy that they were able to re-sign Munnerlyn for as cheap as they did,” said Pro Football Focus’ Michael Renner. “He brings proven ability to a defensive backfield that desperately needs it.”

However, outside of Munnerlyn, the Panthers secondary has proved very little. Chris Gamble looked the part of one of the league’s better No. 1 corners while in his 20s, but was released as he hit 30 and then returned. Carolina did sign D.J. Moore and Drayton Florence at cornerback and have Mike Mitchell, Haruki Nakamura and D.J. Campbell, but none of them really inspire confidence in a starting role at this point.

Carolina’s ability to destroy the Atlanta Falcons‘ chances at becoming the NFC South’s first ever repeat winner — while fending off enigmas in the New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers — will rest primarily on both the continued development of Newton as a pocket passer and their defensive line’s ability to take over after adding tackles Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short through the draft to supplement ends Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy.

These elements could make up for a secondary that looks mediocre, at least on paper, in 2013.

Thomas Emerick is a Senior Writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @ThomasEmerick, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google

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