Last year the Carolina Panthers went just 7-8-1, but still in the very weak NFC South that was good enough to win the division title. The Panthers then beat Arizona in the Wildcard round, before falling to the Seahawks a week later. The Panthers are the favorites to win the AFC South again and their win total has been set at 8.5 with juice to the Under (-130). Vegas odds have the Panthers listed at +200 to win the NFC South, +2000 to win the NFC Title and +4500 to win the Super Bowl. A season preview of the Panthers along with their 2015 Schedule are below.
Last year the Carolina offense ranked 19th in scoring, at 21.2 ppg, while also ranking 16th in total yards (346.7 ypg), 19th in passing (219.4 ypg) and 7th in rushing (127.2 ypg). The offense was not very good last year, but the Panthers had some off the field issues and Cam Newton just didn't look like the same QB coming off of surgery. This year he should be much better and having an upgraded OL will help make him feel more comfortable. The OL was one of the weaker in the league last year, but they have made strides to upgrade it by signing OT's Jonathan Martin and Michael Oher, while taking Daryl Williams (Oklahoma) with their 3rd pick in the draft. The OL also returns Ryan Kalil, who is a 4 time Pro Bowler at center. Also helping Cam is the addition of WR Ted Ginn Jr through free agency, plus the drafting of Devin Funchess (Michigan) with their 2nd pick. The Panthers also have Kelvin Benjamin coming back, after having 1008 receiving yards last year and was Cam's go to guy. Jericho Cotchery adds solid depth. Deangelo Wiliams is gone at the RB position and that now leave the ground attack in the hands of Jonathan Stewart, who ran for 809 yards and 3 scored last year. Mike Tolbert is one of the best fullbacks in the league, while Jordan Todman (free agency) and Cameron Artis-Payne (5th round Auburn) were brought in for depth.
Defensively the Panthers ranked 21st in points allowed (23.4 ppg), 10th in yards allowed (339.8 ypg), 11th vs the pass (227.8 ypg) and 16th vs the run (112.0 ypg). The defense has been the strength of this team and this year should be no exception. The DL looks stout again and brings back 3 starters from last year's group. Charles Johnson had 8.5 sacks last year and 53 QB hurries is considered one of the best 4-3 rushing ends in the league. Their is a hole at the other DE spot as Greg Hardy must be replaced. Mario Addison may be a candidate for the spot after notching 6.5 sacks last year. The erst of the line is solid and has some good depth as well. The LB corps is the strength of this defense and is led by Luke Kuechly, who led the NFL in tackles for the second time in 3 years. Thomas Davis ranked as the 5th best OLB last year after totaling 100 tackles. These two will be joined by 1st round pick Shaq Thompson from Washington. MLB David Trusnik was brought in through free agency for depth as was 5th round pick David Mayo. The secondary helped this defense be 11th vs the pass last year and they should be better this year. Bene Benwikere has a very good rookie season and showed the skills that will make him one of the best DBs in the league. Josh Norman is also very talented that gives the Panthers one of the best corner tandems in the league. Tre Boston had a solid year at safety as a rookie, while the Panther added good depth by grabbing Charles Tillman and Kurt Coleman in free agency.
The Panthers are the 2-time defending south champs, but last year it was more of the fact that they played in a very weak division. They still do, but this year the Falcons are much stronger and the Saints will be better as well. This is still a decent team and they are very strong in the defensive side of the ball, but I just don't know if the offense has been improved enough for them to win the their third division title in a row. The OL has been upgraded and that is important for them to get their ground attack going, plus for protecting Newton. He looked tentative last year and should be better this year, but will we ever see the Cam that we saw in his rookie year? That is the question. He does have some nice WR's to work with, but very little depth in that department, while the running game should be solid. As I said, the defense is very good once again, especially the LB corps, which is one of the best in the league. This defense also have very good depth at every level. Defense wins titles, but at some point you have to be able to score as well and I don't feel that the Panthers will score enough to win their 3rd NFC South title in a row. 7-9 this year.
Info Gathered From Pro Football Weekly & Athlon Sports
2015 Carolina Panthers Schedule
Sept. 13 at Jacksonville Jaguars, 1
Sept. 20 Houston Texans, 1
Sept. 27 New Orleans Saints, 1
Oct. 4 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1
Oct. 11 BYE
Oct. 18 at Seattle Seahawks, 4:05
Oct. 25 Philadelphia Eagles*, 8:30
Nov. 2 Indianapolis Colts (Mon), 8:30
Nov. 8 Green Bay Packers, 1
Nov. 15 at Tennessee Titans, 1
Nov. 22 Washington Redskins, 1
Nov. 26 at Dallas Cowboys (Thu), 4:30
Dec. 6 at New Orleans Saints, 1
Dec. 13 Atlanta Falcons, 1
Dec. 20 at New York Giants, 1
Dec. 27 at Atlanta Falcons, 1
Jan. 3 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1
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