What to Expect From the Carolina Panthers

At this point every year, I sit down and talk myself into the Panthers going anywhere from 11-5 to 13-3. This year however, I am struggling to get to that point, but don’t worry, after enough time I got there. Throughout this post, I am doing to mention and breakdown a couple of players, do a quick run through of their draft, and end it with a complete breakdown of their schedule.

Obviously there is Luke Kuechly, Cam Newton, and Greg Olsen. They HAVE to preform and stay healthy for the Panthers to have ANY kind of success. Obviously the secondary has not shown up at all for the past few season, but I expect that to change. Bradberry and Jackson are both going to have fantastic years. Eric Reid is going to return to form, and we welcome back Tre Boston, who can remember the energy we need to have to match the 2015 season. As for the linebackers, a key offseason signing of Bruce Irvin is going to, in my opinion, prove very crucial as he will be able to pass off a ton of his knowledge to our already talented linebacker group. Every year this player seems to be “the breakout guy” but he never has proven to be. And that is Shaq Thompson. A tremendous outside linebacker, but has never taken it to the next level that the Panthers are looking for. And then we get to the front four. Fantastic. Gerald McCoy was a great offseason acquisition and I am predicting a bounce back season for Dontari Poe. You can always expect KK Short to have a great year along with Mario Addison. And then there is the newcomer Brian Burns, and I will touch on him later. But I will say one thing, I am very excited for this man to join the Carolina Panthers. VERY.

As for the offense, the offensive line is terrible. Just terrible. A somehow ranked middle of the pack pass blocking o-line, they have got to just add a few more seconds for Cam. And part of this is on Cam too. He takes way to long for a play to develop. He needs to go through his drop back and by the time his back foot plants know who he is throwing too. As for the run block, we were the 6th worse run blocking team. And if you think of how good McCaffrey was, just imagine him on a team that could actually block for him. Wild right. I think the run block is going to make a lot of improvements and the pass blocking is actually going to suffer. Which brings me to my next point, Cam Newton. What a wild ride he is. Cam needs to stay healthy if the Panthers want ANY sort of success. Coming off a shoulder surgery, I think we are going to see a Cam Newton similar to his MVP season. DJ Moore and Curtis Samuel are both going to have breakout seasons with this improved Cam Newton and McCaffrey is going to continue to be one of the best backs in the league.

Now for the most interesting part. Dissecting the Panthers schedule. Probably none of what I actually said above is going to happen which means that the next part is also gonna be wrong.

Week #1: At home playing the Los Angeles Rams

Plain and simple the Panthers are going to get thrashed. We are not going to come out hot, the Rams are going to run all over us and just dominate us. Very little chance the Panthers actually win this game.

Week #2: At home playing the Tampa Bay Bucs

After a probable demoralizing loss in week one, the Panthers are going to come back strong in a early division game. It is always going to be a tough game with the NFC South, but the Bucs are definitely the easiest team to play. I believe the Panthers will come out on top but it won’t be easy.

Week #3: Away playing the Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals are probably going to be one of the worst teams in football. However, the Panthers can never get up for these kinds of games. They seem to play down to the level of the opponent. However, the Panthers are going to win this game easily and it won’t be much of a contest.

Week #4: Away playing the Houston Texans

Deshaun Watson is going to pick apart the Carolina Panthers. We will have no solution. We will lose this game to get to 2-2 on the season through 4 games.

Week #5: At home playing the Jacksonville Jaguars

This is going to be one of the closest games of the Panthers season. I believe that we are going to come out on top after a tough battle and improve to 3-2.

Week #6: Away playing the Tampa Bay Bucs

The Panthers will easily win this game. It won’t be much of a challenge, but will prove to be a very big win as we will continue to gain momentum. 4-2 on the season and getting into a rhythm.

WEEK 7 BYE

Week #8: Away playing the San Francisco 49ers

The Panthers should easily win this game. 5-2 on the season.

Week #9: At home playing the Tennessee Titans

I do not like Mariota and especially don’t think his career is going ANYWHERE. Panthers win another easy game to get to 6-2.

Week #10: Away playing the Green Bay Packers

Away at Lambeau is always challenging. Especially if the Packers have a defense which I believe they will be pretty tough this year. Panthers drop this game. And it won’t be close.

Week #11: At home playing the Atlanta Falcons

NFC South games are always challenging whether it is home or away. Panthers win this game behind a fantastic McCaffrey game. 7-3.

Week #12: Away playing the New Orleans Saints

We get smashed. Never can play the Saints. Kamara tears us apart. 7-4.

Week #13: At home playing the Washington Redskins

I believe by this time Haskins is going to be playing for the Redskins and he torches us. Panthers drop back to back games to get to 7-5 on the year.

Week #14: Away playing the Atlanta Falcons

Panthers lose three straight and start to get frustrated with the way things are going. After a close loss in Atlanta the Panthers begin to think about firing Ron Rivera. 7-6 on the year.

Week #15: At home playing the Seattle Seahawks

Four straight losses for the Panthers after a great start to the season leads to even more thought about Rivera’s job security. 500 on the year sitting at 7-7 with 2 weeks left.

Week #16: Away playing the Indianapolis Colts

The Colts are going to be one of the worst teams in football. Panthers win this one to at least finish at 500 for the season. It seems as if Rivera will be safe. 8-7.

Week #17: Away playing the New Orleans Saints

The Panthers get absolutely embarrassed in this game. Finishing at 500 on the season and not making the playoffs, Rivera is definitely on the hot seat. 8-8 on the year. Disappointing to say the least.

2019 NFL Season Preview, NFC South Edition

As a part of our preparation for the upcoming NFL season, Dylan White and I decided to dive deep into every team’s offseason, picking the most interesting players and storylines to follow this season. Accompanying these players and storylines are draft class summaries, teams’ strengths, weaknesses, and record predictions. Here is my 2019 NFC South Season Preview. NFC North is up next!

Carolina Panthers

2019 Draft Grade – B+, Brian Burns was the big addition of the Panthers 2019 draft class. He’s a quick, athletic edge rusher who will make an immediate difference for an already solid Carolina defense. Greg Little was a good value pick and gives the Panthers a talented backup incase of injuries. Will Grier was a good get in the 3rd round, but he is unlikely to see any meaningful playing-time barring an injury to Cam Newton.

Player to Watch – DJ Moore, WR: With Devin Funchess gone, DJ Moore is Cam Newton’s clear #1 target to throw to. Although Christian McCaffery is going to be a workhorse for Carolina, definitely expect a boost in DJ Moore’s targets. Fellow wideout Curtis Samuel could see similar increases as well.

Positional Strengths – Running Back, Defensive Tackle, Middle Linebacker

Positional Weaknesses – Defensive Back, Big-Bodied Wide Receiver

Projected Record – 9-7

atlanta falcons

2019 Draft Grade – C-, I was quite puzzled by the Falcons draft strategy. They ended up with 2 first-round picks (#14 and #31), taking offensive linemen, Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary. While both players are solid, I didn’t have either projected to land in the first round. This being said, the Falcons definitely improved their offensive line and have more flexibility to move them around.

Players to Watch – Devonta Freeman, RB: With Tevin Coleman now in San Francisco, Freeman is the clear #1 back in Atlanta. After an injury-plagued 2018, Freeman should have much higher success in the upcoming season as long as he can stay healthy.

Keanu Neal, SS: Neal missed all of 2018 after tearing his ACL in week 1, but he is primed for a great comeback. The leader of a sneaky-good defense, a healthy Neal is a necessity for the Falcons to make it far in the talented NFC South.

Positional Strengths – Safety, Wide Receiver

Positional Weaknesses – Tight End

Projected Record – 8-8

new orleans saints

2019 Draft Grade – C, Another team with a limited amount of picks, New Orleans only had one selection in the top 100 picks. They managed to pick up a decent center in Eric McCoy, and safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson could be a value pick in the 4th, but no one in this draft class offers elite upside for the Saints.

Player to Watch – Michael Thomas, WR: After signing a huge contract extension, Thomas is now the highest-paid wide receiver in the NFL. That puts a lot of pressure on Thomas to keep up his elite production, even with his future Hall-of-Fame quarterback, Drew Brees, entering his age 40 season. The only concern here would be Thomas drawing a lot of double coverage without other talented wideouts around him. Even so, expect another huge year for Thomas.

Positional Strengths – Offensive Tackle, Quarterback

Positional Weaknesses – Linebacker, Wide Receiver Depth

Projected Record – 8-8

tampa bay buccaneers

2019 Draft Grade – B, Replacing Kwon Alexander with Devin White is huge. The Bucs have relied on Alexander and Lavonte David to lead their defense, and White should fill Alexander’s role perfectly. The majority of their selections wound up on the defensive side of the ball, so no major improvements on offense should be expected.

Player to Watch – O.J. Howard, TE: It has become clear that O.J. Howard is one of the best young tight ends around. The unique athleticism makes Howard a deep threat risk unlike any other player at his position. 2019 should be Howard’s best season as he should have Jameis Winston as his QB for the entire season. Without much of a run game, Howard, along with Cameron Brate and Mike Evans, will all receive a large number of red-zone targets

Positional Strengths – Tight End

Positional Weaknesses – Running Back, Offensive Tackle, Cornerback, Safety

Projected Record – 6-10

Storylines

Best QB?: Currently, I would have to say the NFC South had the strongest group of starting quarterbacks. Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, Cam Newton and Jameis Winston have all been very good in past years. While all four are not equal in terms of status, they can all post great numbers on a weekly basis, and it will be a good contest to see who leads NFC South QB’s by the end of the season.

Elite RBs: Its clear Saquon Barkley is the best running back in the NFL, but with Ezekiel Elliot and Melvin Gordon both questionable to start the season, it is increasingly likely that Alvin Kamara and Christian McCaffery are the 2nd and 3rd best RBs of 2019. With Mark Ingram gone Kamara could see even higher volume, and McCaffery is said to be looking even better than last year. Though Atlanta and Tampa Bay don’t have elite running backs, McCaffery and Kamara make this a division worth watching.

All division team

QB: Matt Ryan, ATL RB: Christian McCaffery, CAR

WR: Julio Jones, ATL WR: Michael Thomas, NO

TE: O.J. Howard, TB C: Alex Mack, ATL

OT: Jake Matthews, ATL OT: Ryan Ramczyk, NO

OG: Trai Turner, CAR OG: Ali Marpet, TB

DE: Cameron Jordan, NO DE: Brian Burns, CAR

DT: Grady Jarrett, ATL MLB: Luke Kuechly, CAR

LB: Lavonte David, TB LB: Deion Jones, ATL

CB: Marshon Lattimore, NO CB: Desmond Trufant, ATL

FS: Ricardo Allen, ATL SS: Keanu Neal, ATL