The Carolina Panthers have a decent team entering the season with high hopes for this team to go far into the season. On paper, they look dangerous especially with their dual threat in the eighth overall pick, Christian McCaffrey combined with their always ready defense. After a down year last season, the Panthers have steadily made waves in this edition of the NFL season.
When on form, this Panthers team is very hard to beat. With a great mix of talent, veterans, and youngsters, a motivated Panthers team will be inclined to bring their best when they take the field. Thing is, they only show up in games arguably half of the time only as they choose games in which they have a sense of urgency. That being said, this team still has the tools to win the division as the NFC South is a horse race right now.
3rd in yards allowed, 2nd in first downs allowed, 4th in yards per attempt, 2nd in rushing attempts by the opposition.
The Carolina defense has been quietly good this season, but they don’t get the credit they deserve unlike the Jacksonville Jaguars or the Saints defense lately. The league needs to realize that the Panthers’ defense has been excellent for the past decade. Even in the down year, last year where they kept getting torched in the secondary, they were still 6th in rushing yards allowed and that was with the Super Bowl hangover already.
This season, that same core in the defense has gained a year of experience under their belts. With the offseason acquisitions of Mike Adams, Captain Munnerlyn, and Julius Peppers, the young pieces of the defense gained mentors that will only help them to be better. Vernon Butler, James Bradberry, and Daryl Worley have improved and committed lesser mistakes this season.
The engine room of the Panthers front seven, with Luke Kuchely, Thomas Davis, Kawann Short, and Shaq Thompson, will single-handedly bring the Panthers to the playoffs if they are healthy. Shaq Thompson has shown great potential in this run. With his versatility, Thompson has shown leadership capabilities to take over when the time of Davis and Kuchely are up.
That being said, Luke Kuechly has been out due to a concussion, Kurt Coleman as well due to a sprained MCL, Charles Johnson due to back surgery, and their draft pick, Corn Elder also suffered a minor knee injury mid-season. If we can see the Panthers’ defense fully healthy more, no doubt they can challenge to be the best defense in the league without a question.
The offense will only improve
The biggest criticism of the Carolina Panthers is definitely on the shoulders of the offense. Some blame it on Mike Shula. Some blame it on Cam Newton. Some blame it on his weapons. Surprisingly to many, the O-Line is holding up well with 24 sacks vs the 22 they are doing to opponents. Former Panthers GM, Dave Gettleman invested his draft picks and free agency to help Cam have weapons on offense but they have been at best inconsistent.
RB Christian McCaffrey only has 11 rushing yards vs 329 receiving yards. WR Curtis Samuel has only started two games and caused a pick-six in a game vs the Chicago Bears. RT Taylor Moton has only managed eight snaps the whole campaign so far and free agent signing Russell Shepard only has 119 receiving yards. With all the problems the Panthers offense have, it is amusing to note that the Panthers are 4-3.
Then again, just like the defense the offensive side of the ball also has injury problems. TE Greg Olsen broke his foot in Week 3. Olsen is the main target of Cam Newton and was looking for his 4th straight 1000+ yard season until now since he’s projected to come back in Week 11 vs the New York Jets. Olsen’s injury left a gaping hole in the passing offense of the Panthers considering the relatively weak receive corps the Panthers have. Add to that the weekly uncertainty of C Ryan Kalil if he will play or not, questions will really be asked by the fans.
The NFC South is a mixed bag
In one of the most competitive divisions in the NFL right now, the NFC South is a dogfight. The New Orleans Saints were bottom of the division to start the season but they’re now the division leader. The Atlanta Falcons were the solid leader in the NFC South until the Panthers took over from then on. The Super Bowl hangover hit them late, and it is hitting them hard. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are a talented team on offense with the weapons they have, but if the defense can get their act together, then it will make the division picture even more interesting.
We are coming to the halfway point of the season and there isn’t a clear cut favorite in this division. But with the Carolina Panthers having the capability to get even better when they get into full health, that will be the most interesting thing to watch out as the season pans out.
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