Carolina Panthers Fantasy Outlook: Cam Newton

Cam Newton – Quarterback – Age 30 – Year 9

Cam Newton has been a fantasy darling throughout his NFL career. He always finishes as a QB1 (a top 12 QB), due in large part to his rushing ability which can skew the quarterback position from a fantasy value. Year after year he carries fantasy teams to championships on the back of his big game performances. Coming off of his second shoulder surgery in the past three seasons, how will SuperCam fare in 2019? I’ll get to that in a bit, but let’s rewind last season. 

2018 Review

Cam and the Panthers started off 2018 hot as the team started off the year 6-2. However, after a week 10 beat down by the hands of the Pittsburgh Steelers, the tide of the season changed. The Panthers lost out the rest of their games, and the club shut down Newton after week 14 once his shoulder injury continued to worsen. That said, Newton was unbelievable during his time on the field. From week 2 through week 13 he threw for 2+ touchdowns in every game. While interceptions have always been a concern for Newton, he finished with 13 on the season. However, he threw four in one game vs Tampa Bay late in the season. Take that out and he’d thrown single-digit interceptions for the first time in his career. Additionally, he saw a completion percentage of 67.9% which is by far and away the best of his career. As far as his patented rushing totals go, he had 101 attempts for 488 and 4 touchdowns, which was one of his lowest totals to date, albeit, it was only 14 games. Regardless, Cam Newton was incredible once again from a fantasy football perspective in 2018.

Cam’s 2018 stat line: 320/471 passing (67.9%), 3395 passing yards, 24 touchdowns, 13 interceptions, 101 carries, 488 rushing yards, and 4 rushing touchdowns. He was QB #5 through the 14 games he played. 

2019 Outlook

Coming off of the previously mentioned shoulder surgery, Cam Newton is expected to be available at the start of the year, but just because he’s available doesn’t mean he will be fully utilized like normal. Remember last season the coaching staff wouldn’t let him throw deep downfield, limiting his passing ability. That said, this might be Cam’s best set of offensive weapons he’s ever had. But at age 30, and Christian McCaffrey shining in the backfield, Newton’s rushing dominance will continue to slowly decrease, though it is still viable. For every good thing to like about Newton this season, there is something negative to negate it.  Additionally, the quarterback position increasingly gets deeper with more options available. I have Newton ranked as my eighth quarterback this year (for now), but it’s not a comfortable eight. His average draft position in 12-team leagues right now is the third pick of the ninth round (pick 101). He is the eleventh QB taken off the board behind Kyler Murray (WOW), Russell Wilson, and Carson Wentz. However, he is going ahead of Jared Goff, Jameis Winston, and Philip Rivers. At the ninth round and especially QB 11, Cam Newton is a value this year as a quarterback who has never finished outside the top 12 and has top 5 upside when he’s on the field.

2019 projected stat line: 330/500 (66%), 3,450 passing yards, 26 touchdowns, 12 interceptions, 115 rushing attempts, 520 rushing yards, 5 rushing touchdowns.

UPDATE**** July 29th, 2019: After stating out the rest of the Panthers’ offense and factoring in Newton’s recent comments about his arm post-shoulder surgery, there’s no way he throws 500 passes. I have bumped him down to 310/450 (68%), 3200 passing yards, 24 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, 115 rush attempts, 520 rushing yards, 5 rushing touchdowns.

Carolina Panthers Offseason Roundtable

The Queen’s Guard writers answer the Panthers’ biggest questions about this offseason. A series of eight questions, we answer everything from possible draft picks to which players may or may not be re-signed.

Question One: The Panthers started the year 6-2 but only won a single game in the second half of the season. Would you consider this season successful (and why or why not)?

Dylan Jackson: No. This season was far from successful. The second-half-season collapse was detrimental and many players underperformed. You can put a lot of blame on the coach, however, there are so many areas that lacked skill and performance over the final eight games of the year.

Josh George: I think the season is obviously unsuccessful because no one ever really wants to be 7-9 but I don’t think too much outrage should be had. Our QB couldn’t throw past 20 yards because he was injured and that is ultimately why we didn’t make the playoffs. There are other problems (which we will discuss later) but that was the biggest. Even with the greatness of McCaffrey, this Panther team goes as far as Cam can take us.

Stephen Sears: Absolutely not, falling from 6-2 to 7-9 is catastrophic. Obviously, certain factors played into this but once going from being considered super bowl sleepers to not even coming close to sniffing the playoffs is a big L for the organization.

Chase Pletcher: If the Panthers had gotten off to a rough start and finished 7-9 this season would’ve been considered a failure, the fact that they started off 6-2 and finished that way makes it a historic failure. The team had made the playoffs 4 of the previous 5 seasons, and has a superstar on both sides of the ball, even if you don’t think it’s “Superbowl or Bust” every year, anything less than a playoff run is a failure for this group.

Euan Reynard: Given where the team was at the midpoint of the season, winning consistently and right in the hunt for a Play-Off BYE, this season has to go down as unsuccessful. Whether the team ‘underachieved’ or not, though, is a very interesting one. With all factors considered – Injury to Cam combined with the awful coaching throughout the year from Ron Rivera, the Defensive staff and the regression that seemed to get worse throughout the year from OC Norv Turner, one could easily conclude that to come out with 7 wins was a minor miracle for this football team.

Question Two: There are a lot of notable Carolina players possibly retiring/leaving such as Thomas Davis, Ryan Kalil, Julius Peppers, Mike Adams, and Greg Olsen. What is the one or two positions that you would say needs upgrading on the Carolina Panthers roster?

DJ: The Panthers have been bad in deep-field coverage for what seems like forever. Obtaining a center-fielding safety only aids a bleeding secondary when it comes to the deep ball. Mike Adams was decent during his first season, but likely won’t return. Colin Jones isn’t the answer either. And even if Eric Reid returns, which is more probable than not, he is more of a box safety.

JG: I think the obvious position is defensive end. Ian Thomas looked great last year and I think he’s ready to be TE1. We probably do need another LB but Luke is still an all-pro player so that isn’t as pressing. Our line needs improving as well but more at the tackle positions than at center. Hopefully, we resign Eric Reid and give Gaulden a starting spot. 38-year-old Julius Peppers was probably our best pass rusher last year and that’s just sad. We didn’t give our corners a lot of help this past year because we couldn’t generate any pressure at all. We ranked 27th in sacks last year. That just isn’t going to cut it.

SS: Defensive Line and linebacker would be my top two. We have zero edge rushers that I’m confident in and Kawaan Short and Dontari Poe severely underperformed last season. Luke Kuechly is a still force to be reckoned with but I’m not comfortable with Shaq Thompson being his running mate. After those two there’s a severe drop off in talent.

CP: EDGE and anywhere on the O-Line. The Panthers pass rush is headed by a guy who while good, would not be the number one guy on many other teams (on the Raiders though!), and the Panthers are also in desperate need of a consistent tackle and guard on the left side, as well as a center. I am almost tempted to say O-Line is the top need since it’s an offensive league, but also just one dominant pass rusher can allow you to have a defense that is capable of making timely plays.

ER: The Offensive Line seems to be the obvious answer here – having had 3 Quarterbacks all suffer injuries this season playing behind it, in the case of Taylor Heinicke and Kyle Allen, being taken out of the game in their very 1st starts in the NFL. Special mention to the Defensive Line, that drastically underperformed considering the amount of money and draft capital that has gone into that position group.

Credit: Last Word on Pro Football
CHARLOTTE, NC – NOVEMBER 25: DJ Moore #12 of the Carolina Panthers runs the ball against Bobby Wagner #54 of the Seattle Seahawks in the first quarter during their game at Bank of America Stadium on November 25, 2018 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Question Three: The Panthers have also had many players excel this past season such as Christian McCaffrey, James Bradberry, Donte Jackson, Curtis Samuel, and Ian Thomas. What is the strongest position on the roster (excluding quarterback)?

DJ: The strongest position on the roster, at least in my opinion, might be the corners. James Bradberry played at a very high level last season and Donte Jackson wasn’t too far behind. Together those two are a promising young duo that should be very good for a long time.

JG: Kind of cheating here but I would like to say our receiving core (CMC, DJ, Curtis, Ian). It’s crazy because we always use to complain about Cam not having weapons. The past two drafts have finally delivered and we have so much talent. McCaffrey is probably a top-five back in the league. I’m super high on DJ and he showed us a lot this past year. I wish someone would please tell Ron Rivera to play Curtis Samuel because he’s a big play waiting to happen. Ian Thomas is another big play guy at the tight end position. I’m giddy just thinking what a healthy Cam can do with these guys actually starting.

SS: I would have ranked this group last a year ago but oddly enough I would go with the receivers. I think we have two gems in D.J Moore and Curtis Samuel who are going to stress defenses out for years to come. Also, Jairus Wright is a solid slot guy who simply gets the job done. They really only need one more piece in a possession guy –not named Devin Funchess– to be a complete group.

CP: I cannot believe I am saying this just one year after Cam Newton took the field with EMS workers at WR for him, but the receivers (tight ends included). Running back was the obvious choice, and it might be the correct choice, but I would’ve only said that if we had a strong second option like CJ Anderson or something. It’s not that CMC can’t carry the load, it’s that he shouldn’t have to. But back to the receivers, DJ Moore is probably already the best YAC receiver in the NFL. He still has some areas to improve upon such as his route running and ability to win on the outside before he can be “go to” number one, but I think he will get there. Curtis Samuel in my humble opinion is the greatest receiver of all time, but on a serious note, his emergence and (hopefully) continued good health has been huge in helping fill a much-needed hole for the Panthers. This is before I even get to Ian Thomas who has shown flashes of being a good TE1 and not just “Greg Olsen’s Backup”. If Greg comes back in a lesser role to help with blocking and in the red zone this group a hole is in great, young, hands.

ER: Right now, no one can say the Panthers have a position group that would be top 5 or even top 10 in the NFL. For years the position of strength on the team had been the Defensive Line, but as previously stated, we have seen them have a very down year. If any position group could be tipped as having the potential to be one of the league’s best, it would have to be the offensive skill group. With McCaffrey coming off a record-breaking year, DJ Moore being ranked by many as the best rookie receiver in football and Curtis Samuel showing just how valuable he is when he has the ball in his hands, this group will generate a lot of excitement going into the 2019 season.

Question Four: There’s a lot of talk about ‘getting younger, faster, and more versatile’. Could we see anyone get surprisingly cut that does not fit that mold?

DJ: I could see Dontari Poe being released. The interior defensive line wasn’t spectacular as expected last season and Dontari Poe should have been more of a force than he actually was. In fact, it’s arguable Kyle Love was better than Poe in this regard. And although even he is a free agent, it’s fairly obvious the Panthers need to find another young, promising defensive lineman.

JG: Thomas Davis was already let go and I see that as being the start of that trend to get faster and younger. Mike Adams is a guy that I can see get cut. Captain Munnerlyn as well. But, those don’t really surprise me so I don’t think anyone cut would be too dramatic.

SS: Think a guy like Mario Addison could be let go in this scenario. Panthers have kind of forced him into a starting role the past couple of seasons when really he should be a rotational guy. Think they would also save some money here but don’t quote me on that.

CP: In terms of a cut that would be “surprising” but possible I guess… Vernon Butler? Not sure if that would be a surprise, but the dead cap would only be $3.8M after June 1st. A huge surprise that I guess could maybe happen would be Greg Olsen who would be owed $7.9M in dead cap. It’s definitely not likely so don’t bank on it happening, but he’s older and beaten up and there are a lot less likely candidates on the team to get cut.

ER: The releasing of Thomas Davis could well be a sign of things to come in Carolina. I would not be shocked if we saw more veteran guys be let go by the team in the coming months as the team looks to rebuild its roster in the same fashion we watched the Seattle Seahawks do last offseason. Whether Ron Rivera can galvanize a group of young players in the way we watched Pete Carroll do in the season just gone remains to be seen, and with the way we have seen Ron treat young players during his time in Carolina, I highly doubt he can.

Question Five: The Draft is happening in April and the Carolina Panthers hold the 16th pick. Is there any particular player or position that you would like to see Hurney, Rivera, and Tepper invest in?

DJ: I would like to see the front office make an effort to get an elite pass rusher in this class. Whether it’s Clelin Ferrell, Brian Burns, or Jachai Polite, Carolina needs youth amongst its edge players and any of these three players would dramatically improve that.

JG: Haven’t done my research on the CFB guys yet so I will say my answer isn’t backed up that well. However, I’d want us to go S or DE.

SS: Defensive End would be the first option I look at in the draft. This draft is loaded with some good edge rushers at the top and very rarely do highly productive pass rushers get selected in later rounds. If one of these guys falls to us at 16 we have to take him.

CP: Yes, literally just the offensive and defensive lines. If they only draft guys in the trenches and maybe a safety by day two I will be pleased with the draft. Football really is won in the trenches and if Hurney just stockpiles these guys surely one on each side will end up good, right?

ER: The Panthers roster has a lot of needs right now, both in terms of talent and depth, so it is hard to pinpoint just one area I would like to see them target. Honestly, I would be very happy if the Panthers could trade out of the 16 spot if possible in order to accumulate more picks so long as the deal was sufficient. When you have a team with so many holes, it’s hard to imagine one guy in the middle of the 1st round would have a larger impact than if we were able to get 2 or 3 guys later on who could be solid day 1 contributors.

Question Six: In contrast, is there any player or position you do not want the Carolina Panthers to go after?

DJ: Unless a player like Jonah Williams is available, I would like to wait until the later rounds to draft an offensive lineman. I also wouldn’t be too hasty to select a safety in this position as there isn’t really an elite-level safety in this class. It’s debatable whether or not Deionte Thompson is good enough to go in the first round, but quality options at safety will always be there later on in the draft.

JG: I don’t want us to take a WR or RB in the first. For depth there, I think we could look into the later rounds. As I stated earlier, I think we have a really good young receiving core.

SS: Receiver. For one, there doesn’t seem to be a guy that stands out and deserving being selected there. Maybe one or two. However, we’re already set at the receiver position and shouldn’t really be shopping there in the early rounds of the draft.

CP: *Disclaimer* when I say don’t I mean don’t unless it’s a super late Day 3 pick that you are positive is going to have an impact. Okay, don’t draft a WR/TE. I think we need a tall guy that can play outside receiver but now is not the time to try to develop another young guy, and it’s certainly not the time to waste a top pick on one either. There are a couple other positions I would steer away from such as RB because of the success of UDFA over the past couple of seasons.

ER: After watching CJ Anderson have success since being cut by the Panthers I’m sure a lot of people will want to see Carolina draft a power runner to pair with McCaffrey. If we take one with a high draft pick when plenty will be available in free agency, I believe this would be a terrible use of resources, especially when CMC has shown his ability to thrive with a heavy load of carries.

Credit: Raleigh-Durham, ABC 11
Devin Funchess catches a touchdown pass in a Panthers’ loss to the Washington Redskins.

Question Seven: The NFL opens free agency before the draft. The Panthers will have roughly $27 million in cap space before cuts and re-signings. What player (you can only choose one) must the Panthers bring back?

DJ: There are only two players that the Panthers must re-sign. Those being Eric Reid and Daryl Williams. Reid was great for Carolina this year, and despite what Tom from Salisbury tells you, was not a distraction in the locker room. Williams, even not playing this year, is a must-re-sign with a weak Panthers offensive line.

JG: I think the guy we need to lock up at a reasonable price is Eric Reid. He definitely had an impact on our defense and is an above average guy at his position. We need him going forward.

SS: Has to be Eric Reid. Had a great year for us at safety and we’re notorious for having a revolving door at the safety position. If anything, bring him back for stability.

CP: This won’t be a common answer because he’s not a big name on the team, but I’d like to see Kyle Love back. He will be cheap and is a solid backup at the DT position. Maybe not the most important name we’d need to bring back, but it’s someone I’m positive we should bring back.

ER: Eric Reid. An obvious decision, for me. The ownership showed the bravery to go and sign him and should reward him now with a more long term deal after impressing in 2018 for the Panthers.

Question Eight: There are many premier free agents that will be available and Panthers owner David Tepper has noted that Carolina will have ‘selective aggression’ when it comes to signing players. Are there any realistic targets in particular that immediately come to mind?

DJ: The Panthers need an X-Receiver. It’s doubtful that Devin Funchess returns and Tyrell Williams would be an excellent fit alongside Curtis Samuel, DJ Moore, Jarius Wright, and Cam Newton. He would complete the wide receiver group in Carolina. Williams was a quality option on a Chargers team loaded with talent: Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Austin Ekeler, and Melvin Gordon.

JG: I’d like the Panthers to look at Ezekiel Ansah. He’s had some injury troubles which is concerning but that can also work in our favor. We could sign him at a good number. If he can get healthy, he’ll definitely outperform a reasonable contract. He’s still young too and would fit the talk of getting younger and faster.

SS: I’d go free safety here. Mainly because I don’t like the talent at the position in the draft and the options in free agency are actually really good. Tyrann Mathieu, Tre Boston, Earl Thomas, Adrian Amos, and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix could be good options. If not safety invest in the protection of Cam Newton. I’m actually fairly positive about our offensive line going into the season. Daryl Williams returning at RT, move Moton to LT, Trai Turner at RG. If we can find a solid LG or center I will be happy.

CP: Tyrell Williams from the Chargers would be a really nice addition assuming Funchess won’t be back. As I’ve said we need a taller receiver to play on the outside and at 6’4 he can be just that. I have no clue what the rumors are in regards to whether or not the Chargers plan to bring him back, but if not it feels pretty realistic so long as he isn’t more expensive than what Funchess would command (I don’t think he will, but I also have no clue, really).

ER: Carolina passed on the opportunity to sign free agent safety Tyrann Mathieu last offseason after he was cut by the Arizona Cardinals. After signing a 1 year deal with the Texans and impressing as the team made the postseason, the honey badger is now back on the market and I think Panthers GM Marty Hurney would be smart to make the deal happen this time around. Tyrann will be 27 at the start of the 2019 season which is surprisingly young for a guy who feels like he’s been around forever and signing a guy who can mentor a group of young DB’s as well as plug a lot of holes as a jack of all trades seems like an easy decision. Add to this the growing number of players from ‘DBU’ LSU in the Panthers secondary, and bringing the Badger to the Bank of America Stadium starts to feel like a match made in heaven.

Nine Draft Prospects That May Be On Their Way To Charlotte

The Carolina Panthers will be picking 16th in the draft this coming April. The players mentioned here won’t all be projected to go in the first round, but could all be in play during the entirety of the NFL draft. Carolina has a plethora of needs and these players might end up filling them this offseason.

1. Brian Burns, Edge Rusher, Florida State
Standing at 6-foot-5, 230 pounds, Burns is undersized but has unique bend and quickness off of the edge. He’s also very intelligent during plays, often shifting which gap he’ll decide to rush. One of the weaker spots in his game, however, comes when trying to switch from speed-to-power. During the draft process, his weight will be closely monitored by most teams. The main question regarding Burns will be his ability to maintain his play with an additional 20 pounds on his frame.

Burns is currently projected as a mid-first round talent but may fall down the draft due to the immense amount of talent on the edge in this draft. He is a player that will likely be available when the Carolina Panthers pick at 16.

2. Cody Ford, Interior Offensive Line, Oklahoma
The Panthers desperately need to protect Cam Newton, and Cody Ford is a unique blocker that played right tackle at Oklahoma protecting another mobile quarterback in Kyler Murray. Ford is very quick for his size (similar to Trai Turner) and would help solidify a young Panthers line that already has Taylor Moton, Daryl Williams, and the aforementioned Trai Turner.

Ford is a strong player and almost nobody was able to bullrush him this past season for the Sooners. The only major concern with Ford would be his footwork, which, again, should improve once moved to the interior offensive line. He is projected to go in the first round, but many evaluators are struggling to project his stock further than that.

3. Devin Bush, Linebacker, Michigan
Devin Bush is an explosive, smart linebacker that is always involved in the play. While Bush is undersized (5-foot-11, 220), he’s powerful and has a very high football IQ. Bush is a dynamic blitzer who is able to shoot a given gap with ease. He isn’t the best block-shedder, but not all linebackers need to be.

Devin Bush is the type of linebacker that can take over any given football game. He is projected as a late-first round prospect, but his stock could improve if he tests well at the NFL combine.

4. Deionte Thompson, Safety, Alabama
Thompson is a player on the back end with elite speed and athleticism. He’s quick to the ball, and one of the better coverage safeties in this draft. Thompson struggled against Clemson in the college football championship game, but was an elite level player during the first half of the season.

While there is a debate between Thompson and Nasir Adderley of Delaware, the Alabama product will likely go late-first round. Unless Carolina either trades down or Thompson falls to their second round pick, I’m doubtful that Carolina will select him on day one.

5. Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, Defensive Back, Florida
I have CGJ listed as a defensive back because nobody is really sure of where he will be listed in the NFL. I personally see him as a nickel corner despite him playing most of his time at Florida at the safety position. CGJ intercepted a total of nine passes during his three-year career for the Gators. He can cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time but is not consistent in man coverage.

Gardner-Johnson is a great fit for the modern safety/nickel position. He is seen by most evaluators as a day two pick, but there may be a team picking in the latter half of round one that falls in love with his skill set (just like the Pittsburg Steelers did with Terrell Edmunds in last year’s draft).

6. Ben Powers, Interior Offensive Line, Oklahoma
I know what you’re thinking. Cody Ford is already on this list. But hear me out, if the Panthers decide to abstain from picking an offensive lineman in the first round, Ben Powers will likely be available in round two.

Powers was not challenged by power rushers at the collegiate level, and his footwork was mostly solid. As a run blocker, Powers covers a lot of ground in zone schemes. He doesn’t have too much power (ironically), but his strength is functional. Powers is seen as a second-round prospect that may fly up draft boards due to the lack of availability in this draft’s interior offensive line class.

7. Jaylon Ferguson, Edge Rusher, Louisiana Tech
The FBS all-time sack leader, Ferguson was elite during his tenure at Louisiana Tech. Ferguson effectively uses his hands and is quick to the point of attack. At 6-foot-5, 265, he has a great edge frame and uses his body effectively.

Ferguson will likely be available when the Panthers pick in the second round (47th overall selection), and wouldn’t be a bad way to spend the pick, should Carolina go in another direction with their first-round choice.

8. Renell Wren, Interior Defensive Line, Arizona State
Renell Wren is a quick 1-technique defensive tackle that could add much-needed depth to a disappointing Panthers defensive line in 2018. He is physically dominant, and also extremely quick for his size (Wren is rumored to have run a 4.85 40-yard dash time.

While the interior line won’t be the most pressing need Carolina must address, getting a solid 1T tackle alongside Kawann Short would only benefit the line after Dontari Poe frustrated fans in his first season in Carolina. Wren is projected to go in the late-third to early-fourth round in the draft this year.

9. Lil’Jordan Humphrey, Wide Reciever, Texas
LJ Humphrey is a big-body receiver that can go up and make catches. It’s unlikely the Panthers bring back WRX in Devin Funchess, so getting another possession-based receiver would greatly benefit the team, and especially one of Humphrey’s caliber.

Not only is he good getting the ball, but Humphrey also excels in his unique ability after the catch. At 6-foot-4, 220, Humphrey may be exactly what Carolina needs. He is projected to go in either the third, fourth, or fifth round.

For The Carolina Panthers, It’s The End Of An Era

The Carolina Panthers currently sit at 6-7 with a quarterback that turns 30 in May. It’s also likely that a good portion of their players are going to retire this offseason. The future for this team is blurry and its tough to see just what direction this is squad is going to go.

Ron Rivera was hired following an abysmal 2-14 season in 2010 with John Fox at head coach and Jimmy Clausen as starting quarterback. With the help of a shiny number one draft pick in Cam Newton, Rivera immediately turned the team around to a 6-10 record, then 8-8 the following season.

Fast forward eight years later, and Carolina fans are calling for Rivera’s job. The Panthers have now lost five games in a row, including one to their division rivals the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and another to the Cleveland Browns, who finished 0-16 just a season ago.

Despite a shift along the landscape of the NFL (in a more offensive, aggressive direction), along with numerous missed opportunities over the course of the past few years, Rivera has remained true to his conservative coaching style.

For that, I don’t blame him, it has worked in the past.

Just take 2015, for example. The Panthers finished 17-2 (including the playoffs), making it all the way to the Super Bowl. Despite not having a true number one receiver the offense was able to  finish first in total offense. The defense was able to hold their own as always and produced a solid season as well.

Since then things just haven’t been the same. Teams have adjusted to Carolin’s no-nonsense style of play. Cam Newton has had lingering shoulder issues. Players have underperformed after getting large contract extensions.  Nothing is going right for the Panthers.

There’s no way you can pin this on one particular player or coach.

The NFL is an unpredictable league, and the Panthers have an aging roster. It looks as if Julius Peppers, Mike Adams, Greg Olsen, Thomas Davis, and Ryan Kalil may retire this offseason. If that’s the case, the Panthers lose five key starters from both sides of the ball.

There may be replacements on the rosters in guys like Ian Thomas, Rashaan Gaulden and Efe Obada who all have loads of potential. However, there is no telling if they will be able to fill the void left by their predecessors.

So, it just might be time for a new direction. That may unfortunately involve a rebuild. The Carolina Panthers were bought less than a year ago by billionaire David Tepper. It’s a given that he has ideas for his team, and that may involve new personnel. Jason La Canfora even reported that Tepper was considering making significant changes to the staff after the Panthers had lost three straight games, before dropping their next two games to the Buccaneers and Browns.

A rebuild is never promising. Just look at the forever rebuilding Buffalo Bills. They made the playoffs last season with Tyrod Taylor and Nathan Peterman. This year, things aren’t as bright, despite Josh Allen having little to nothing to work with.

However, it may be a risk worth taking. The aforementioned aging roster is bound to drop off in the next couple of years. Cam Newton’s contract expires in 2020 and assuming he gets another massive extension (which is well deserved), the Panthers’ money situation isn’t going to get any better either.

As of right now, the Carolina Panthers hold the 15th pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. They are also scheduled to have around $25 million in cap room after this season. That isn’t favorable especially when other wild-card caliber NFC teams have millions more to spend. Detroit sit at $40 million, Packers have $45 million and Seahawks have $65 million.

It is very possible, especially if Cam Newton doesn’t return to full form after he has had numerous shoulder issues, that the Panthers won’t be good again for a very long time.

I know that I sound like a downer right now. However, we knew that this year would be one of Carolina’s last chances to win a Super Bowl. That’s something that Panthers fans should have known. It just seems that the message has been relayed in a more disappointing manner than what Ron Rivera and Co. would want.

Panthers fall in a heartbreaker to Seahawks, 30-27.

Sunday afternoon the Carolina Panthers dropped their 3rd straight game, this one to the Seattle Seahawks, 30-27.  

Considering that Carolina punted just once the entire game, you would probably think 27 points seems like a pretty low amount, and you’d be correct.  After forcing Seattle into a quick punt to start the game, Carolina got the ball deep into the red zone. Four straight runs, however, led to a turnover on downs.

Once again, Carolina’s defense forced another quick punt from Seattle, and the offensive series started much the same.  Two long pass plays of a combined 50 yards had Carolina right in the red zone again. It was only logical, however, that after passing the ball right up the field it would be smart to run the ball up the gut three straight times (making that seven straight red zone runs overall).  

Graham Gano made a short field goal to put the Panthers up 3-0. However, anyone that has ever watched a Carolina game knows that these“missed opportunities” would come back to bite the team.

The teams traded punches for the rest the of the first half which included a touchdown from Curtis Samuel, and another Gano field goal as time expired in the half (another drive that most feel should’ve finished in a TD). Going into the locker room, the score was 13-10.

If you thought that a 25% TD conversion rate in the red zone was bad, then you were even more disappointed when a fifth Carolina red zone trip turned up empty at the start of the 3rd quarter.  Cam Newton dropped back and threw a pass off of his back foot to Chris Manhertz in the back of the end zone. Bradley McDougald jumped up for the 50/50 ball with Manhertz, tipped it to himself, and picked it off. Considering Manhertz had just one catch all season and was in triple coverage, it seems like a bit of an ill-advised throw (and play call).  Again, missed opportunities reigned supreme over those who consider themselves Panthers fans. 

As is the Carolina way, we paid for the turnover and Seattle took their first lead of the day when Wilson threw a dart to Tyler Lockett.  Yeah, those first two stops for the Carolina defense were an anomaly for the day (actually, for the season). Part of this can be attributed to rookie stud Donte Jackson missing all but the first play with an injury, leaving James Bradberry, Corn Elder, and Captain Munnerlyn as the only other corners active on Sunday. Elder, playing to his namesake, was not very quick on his feet against Seattle.

When it felt like Carolina finally had the game at their grasps with about three minutes to go, they let up a 4th and 10, 35-yard bomb from Wilson to Moore to tie the game at 27.  Who was guarding Moore, you might ask?

None other than Panthers’ legend Corn Elder.

This isn’t an attempt to single out one player.  Captain Munnerlyn belongs in a retirement home; he gave up a 43-yard bomb to Tyler Lockett with less than a minute to go (on third down, as well).  This is just after Graham Gano missed a 52-yard field goal to give the Panthers a lead.

Yes, you read that correctly, Gano missed another big field goal.

I could see where you may think I was talking about the one he missed in the Super Bowl, or the one he missed in a Wild Card game last year, or even the one he missed last week. No, Graham Gano missed another field goal, and it was just after Charles Davis, who was commentating the game for FOX Sports, was talking about how great Gano has been over the past two seasons.

Anyways, after that long completion for Seattle, over.  Janikowski kicked an easy 31-yard field goal for the win (after some bad clock management by Carolina) and sent the Panthers to 6-5.  

When your offense misses 4 touchdown opportunities in the red zone, pass rush is nonexistent without blitzing, and the secondary is burnt toast, that’s not a recipe for success.

It would take a miracle to turn this season around, but the silver lining is that Christian McCaffrey and DJ Moore were each phenomenal.  McCaffrey finished with 125 rush yards and 112 receiving yards, while Moore finished with 91 receiving yards.

The future may be bright in Charlotte with those two, but it will require a lot more accountability within the organization and coaching staff to succeed at an expected level.

Carolina Panthers Bye Week Food for Thought

Three weeks have now quickly passed in the Carolina Panthers season and I can say that I have already experienced every single emotion a fan can possibly go through in that short of a timespan. At the conclusion of the Bengals game I genuinely had no idea what the identity of our team is but for somehow, thats done a complete 180 and I am oddly confident in the middle of this break.

To briefly recap the first three weeks. We started out the season with a ugly win against Dallas finishing with a score of 16-8. The Cowboys are not very good, and that game should not have been nearly as close as it was. It ended up coming down to the last few drives which isn’t a good sign for a team looking to make a Super Bowl push. At the time of this I thought, first game kinks, no worries, we will smooth it out. I think optimistically  a lot. Our makeshift offensive line was actually solid, and this “new” accurate Cam Newton was great, but the problem on offense came from the receivers who were unable to create any separation and dropped some easy balls. The defense made the Cowboys offense irrelevant for three quarters, containing Ezekiel Elliot, and making Das Prescott beat them. So, same old Panthers I guess.

Moving into the week 2 at Atlanta. The Falcons were coming off a loss to the Super Bowl Champion Eagles in what was an atrocious game. They actually looked horrid, couldn’t function at all in the red zone. So us losing 31-24, and pretty much letting them score every time they reached the red zone wasn’t the happiest of feelings for me.

Sure, we were in the game and lost on the final drive of the game, but everything leading up to that was the most frustrating piece of football I have seen from this team in a long time. Matt Ryan carved our defense up going 23/28 for 272, had a pair of touchdowns and a pick. Kinda standard, whatever. The issue came in the run defense where we allowed Tevin Coleman –the backup running back, a good one I guess, but still a backup–  to go off for 107 yards, while averaging almost 7 yards a carry. I really don’t even remember the last time our defense gave up 100 yards to a running back.

This is what we pushed me over the edge though.

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I mean.. are you joking? Also, our receivers just looked bad again and I feel like I can already say DJ Moore is the best receiver on this team. Hopefully Curtis Samuel comes back soon and can bring what he brought to the preseason to the team. However for the time being, I need more of this.

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Moving on to week 3 at home against the Bengals. I rate the Bengals pretty highly at the moment, in my AFC Preview I had them finishing this season at 9-7. With the state of the AFC North at the moment, they might just win that division.

So to beat these guys 31-21 is a quality win in my eyes. The only negative in my eyes was the safety position. Colin Jones spent a lot of time looking at the back of receivers jerseys. Not his fault, he’s a special teams player, so please leave him there, Ron Rivera. Lastly, Christian McCaffrey is proving everyone who thinks he can’t run between the tackles wrong. 28 carries for 184, averaging almost 7 a pop is going to win you almost every game.

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“Too Small,” they say.

So, Carolina is 2-1 at the bye week and looking at ways to improve. The offensive line could use some tuning, receivers need to get focused, and safety could definitely use a major upgrade with losing Searcy to injured reserve. So we go out and give the Bills a late 2021 pick for Marshall Newhouse. Bills fans don’t seem to like him, so cool I guess. Then we turn around and sign former pro bowl safety, Eric Reid and then I proceeded to lose my mind in the most positive way possible.

Assuming he still has juice in the tank, Reid is going to bring some quality play at safety, and leadership to go along with that. I don’t expect Reid to be great coming out of the gate, he has missed a lot of time, but this is a step in the right direction not only for our secondary, but for the state of the franchise. With this being a “strictly football decision” Panthers new Owner, David Tepper, is showing that he will do what it takes to improve this football team, even if that means going against the league. Something that would have never been done during the Jerry Richardson regime.

This signing was extra special to me not only because we desperately need a safety but because it seems like I have spent an eternity explaining why Reid and Colin Kaepernick deserve a spot on a NFL roster. For my team to make that happen is amazing to me.

This move has me excited again and I think the Panthers are getting ready to take off coming out of the bye week. With Reid joining the team, and Thomas Davis returning soon, the team morale is getting ready to receive a major boost that should benefit this organization greatly.

NFC Preview

We have finally arrived to everyone’s favorite part of the calendar year, the soothing time of fall. The leaves changing colors can mean one thing and one thing only, football season is upon us. We have all so dearly missed the big plays, dramatic moments, terrible rule changes, and highly questionable ownership that makeup the foundation of this beautiful league.

This means it’s time to roll out season previews and predictions, before the season starts so that I’m not already behind with my first official blog post.

I spent a good portion of a slow evening, going through each week of the NFL schedule -game by game- to come up with these records and standings that I’ll be posting, but still take it with a grain of salt.

With that said, I’ll begin.

NFC North

  1. Minnesota Vikings: Prediction 12- 4, 2017 Record: 13-3

Following a very impressive 2017 campaign Minnesota will look to improve in the very few places they had problems. Case Keenum played well last season but the addition of Kirk Cousins at quarterback should prove to be a huge difference for Minnesota’s offense. Its very hard to repeat a 13 win season, but I still have them being one of the best teams in the NFC.

2. Green Bay Packers: Prediction 10-6, 2017 Record: 7-9

Winning 7 games with Brett Hundley at quarterback is impressive in its own right. Getting Aaron Rodgers back is massive, and it’s worth at least an additional 3 games. I don’t fancy the weapons around Rodgers, but there’s no doubt he will make some magic happen.

3. Chicago Bears: Prediction 8-8, 2017 Record: 5-11

A year under Mitch Trubisky’s belt should help things slow down for him. The big addition of Khalil Mack will help solidify an already solid defense. Look for the Bears to cause problems to their division foes.

4. Detroit Lions: Prediction 6-10, 2017 Record: 9-7

The Lions will be better than their record shows. Detroit will fall victim to everyone in their division simply being further along the curve than they are. I think they will be one of those teams where it seems almost all of their losses come from within 6 points. Also I can’t confidently say I’m a huge believer in new Head Coach, Matt Patricia.

NFC East

  1. Philadelphia Eagles: Prediction 11-5, 2017 Record: 13-3

It seems like very rarely do teams coming off of a Super Bowl run repeat that success the following season barring the Patriots. I believe the Eagles will still be a force to be reckon with in the league but they will end up taking a small step back from 2017. Fortunately enough for them, the rest of their division is no where near as talented as they are. I think they start off slow with Wentz being out but pick it up big time in the second half of the season to surge into the playoffs.

2. New York Giants: Prediction 9-7, 2017 Record: 3-13

A solid turnaround for the Giants this season will see them become competitive in the league once again. The addition of Saquon Barkley will be massive, and the receiving core around quarter back, Eli Manning, is the best it’s been in years. This may very well be Eli’s last chance to prove he still has something left in his tank. On the opposite side of the ball, a very solid defensive unit should be able to keep them in any game this season.

3. Washington Redskins: Prediction 8-8, 2017 Record: 7-9

Washington’s big addition this season was trading for Alex Smith for one of their young star corners in Kendall Fuller after they lost Kirk Cousins. Its hard to say what this will do to the Redskins, I think they stay more or less the same as last season, with no significant strides. Look for them to be competitive to a handful of good teams and turnaround and lose games they should easily win.

4. Dallas Cowboys: Prediction 4-12, 2017 Record: 9-7

I don’t know if a single thing has gone right for the Cowboys this off-season. It seems like there is always something negative surrounding Dallas and I believe the product of that will show on the field. They’re star studded offensive line may start the season missing three starters in Zach Martin, Travis Frederick and La’el Collins. Outside of Ezekiel Elliot in the backfield, quarterback Dak Prescott has no proven weapons around him besides Cole Beasley. If it remains that way for the remainder of the season, Dallas could find themselves in a massive hole.

NFC South

  1. Carolina Panthers: Prediction 12-4, 2017 Record: 11-5

My bias may be showing here but I truly believe the Panthers take the next step this season. As a Panthers fan I can confidently say everything seems to be clicking and working just as planned for Carolina. Quarterback Cam Newton is healthy for the first time in years and seems confident as ever. Running back Christian McCaffrey is looking like the every down back fans are dreaming he can be, and out of nowhere Carolina found themselves a solid receiving core where you can say you have heard of more than one of their receivers on the roster. The secondary and offensive line seem to be the main concern at the moment, but you can count on Luke Keuchly and the Panthers defense to always have the ability to make sure their not out of a game.

2. New Orleans Saints: Prediction 10-6, 2017 Record: 11-5

Not a whole lot happened to New Orleans this off season to suggest they would take a dip or improve off of a solid 2017 season. As long as Drew Brees is behind center you can count on the Saints having a solid season. Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas should continue to make big plays and their defense is as good as ever. I think they once again show they’re a force in the NFC.

3. Atlanta Falcons: Prediction 8-8, 2017 Record: 10-6

I think this is the year we see Atlanta regress to their struggling ways. From the outside looking in they seem like a organization that’s ready to pop if they don’t find success and find it quick. They don’t function properly when they play on the road outside of the dome and they have a good amount of this season in some really tough places to play. I think it will be tough for Matt Ryan and gang this season.

4. Tampa Bay: Prediction 2-14, 2017 Record: 5-11

Its been a hurricane down in Tampa Bay yet again with another Jameis Winston situation. How well will the Bucs cope this time? Not too well I think. Tampa Bay hasn’t made any moves that would suggest they could drastically improve. I think its a long shot and they end with the worst record in the league.

NFC West

  1. Los Angeles Rams: Prediction 14-2, 2017 Record: 11-5

Rams will be looking to build on an impressive first season under Head Coach, Sean McVay. This may very well be the best roster in the NFL top to bottom. Assuming Jared Goff can continue to make strides like he has, the Rams should be looking at being among the upper echelon of teams once again this year. They had one of if not the best defensive units last season, and they only got better with their off-season additions.  I can’t wait to watch Ndamukong Suh, who is still one of the most feared defensive linemen in the league, lineup next to Aaron Donald who is one of the most physically dominant players in the entire league, it’s is going to be amazing.

2. San Francisco 49ers: Prediction 9-7, 2017 Record: 6-10

San Francisco will be looking to build off an impressive end to the 2017 season after going 5-0 with Jimmy Garroppolo as a starter. While the honeymoon was nice, reality will hit soon. The Niners first half of the season is tough but I think they may be able to do just enough to have some wild-card hopes at the end of the year.

3. Seattle Seahawks: Prediction 5-11, 2017 Record: 9-7

Things seem to be going down hill for the Seahawks quickly. The legion of boom is no more, Marshawn Lynch is long gone, the only thing left standing (barely) from their glory days is quarterback Russell Wilson. If they have any ounce of a success this season it will be willed by that man.

4. Arizona Cardinals: 4-12, 2017 Record: 8-8

The Cardinals will finally have some stability at quarterback and if (and its a big if) Sam Bradford can stay healthy I think they can be at least an 8-8 team again. However, I don’t think Bradford makes it through the season and at some point rookie quarterback Sam Darnold will take over and I think they’ll go through some bad growing pains.

That will wrap things up for the NFC. I will aim to have the AFC predictions up this weekend before Sunday’s slate of games kick off. If anyone has made it this far, feel free to comment and tell me I’m wrong.