In 2012, the Carolina Panthers started off ugly, as they posted a 1-4 record in their first five games, with their only win coming against a New Orleans Saints team that was without its head coach, Sean Payton. Also key players on the Saints were were suspended due to the Bounty Scandal. Overall, they finished their season with a 7-9 record and missed the playoffs for the second straight year.
As quarterback Cam Newton looks to rebound in 2013 after experiencing a sophomore slump, the Panthers are in catch-up mode as the NFC South has become relevant in the past few years. The Panthers have so far shown their improvement in preseason, particularly on defense. Although the Panthers have improved in certain areas that should make them more competitive, other teams in their division have also improved as well.
Last season, the Atlanta Falcons ran away in the NFC South, as the Saints were no match without their head coach who was serving a one-year suspension because of the Bounty Scandal.
This season however, Payton is back with the Saints. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have an impressive ensemble and are ready to bounce back. Everyone knows what the Falcons are capable of, as they once again are one of the favorites to make it to the Super Bowl.
Even in a tough division, the Panthers have a chance because every team in the NFC South posted a 3-3 record within their division; the Panthers have a little hope for making the playoffs this year.
In reality however, I do not see the Panthers improving that much in 2013. Defensively, the Panthers should be outstanding, as they have shown their capabilities in creating multiple turnovers along with Luke Kuechly turning into a dominant defensive enforcer.
Offensively however, the Panthers are a total mess, as they can not find a second or third wide receiver to compliment Steve Smith on the outside. Also, Newton has struggled with his accuracy and has been too inconsistent as a passer.
Whether or not the Panthers’ defense is the real deal, I predict that they will win one more game than they did in 2012 and finish their regular season with a 8-8 record. I believe that Newton will have a better season in 2013 and the Panthers will overall be more competitive, but I don’t believe they will be able to finish late in games.
Time will tell, but the Panthers are still one to two seasons behind in terms of overall talent and skill compared to other teams in their division. They will be better, but they will still lack in the offensive department in a league that continues to be more explosive offensively.