5-11, 4th NFC South
Is Carolina Flying Under The Radar? - The Panthers won 11 games last season, and how can you say a team that won 11 is flying under the radar. New Orleans and Atlanta will take a lot of the expectations in the division, which helps take some eyes off Carolina. Cam Newton of course will have eyes drawn on him, but expectations seem to be rather low. The Panthers are returning many defensive players, and getting back a healthy Greg Olsen. We also get a strong running back duo with C.J. Anderson joining Christian McCaffrey. The Panthers will need a few games to fall in their favor, but keep an eye out.
What Does Norv Turner Bring To The Offense? - Norv Turner is an old school offensive coordinator, and his presence in Carolina is going to be interesting with Cam Newton under center. There are a lot of questions about Turner’s role in Carolina. Cam Newton’s running usage has always been rather high despite coaches saying they want to limit him. Turner has not had a running quarterback to work with, which will be an interesting duo to start the season. In terms of a weapon, Olsen stands to gain an advantage here with Turner’s usage of tight ends within his offenses. He also has gone to a bit more committee role, which is going to be the hot topic with McCaffrey and Anderson.
Taylor Heinicke Next In Line If Newton Gets Hurt? - Cam Newton has been very durable despite taking a lot of hits as a running quarterback. Newton has started over 100 games in his career, but looking at Carolina if Newton was to somehow get hurt leaves a lot of questions. Right now Taylor Heinicke is the number two quarterback on the depth chart, which leaves a pretty big gap in play if he is truly the guy next in line. While there are some quarterbacks on the free agent market, or via a quick trade, this would have to be the expected move for Carolina to make if this event does happen.
Will The Favorable Non-Divisional Schedule Help? - The division is going to be brutal, dealing with Atlanta and New Orleans. The Panthers get a much more favorable schedule compared to those two. They open against Dallas and Cincinnati both at home for non-divisional games. Both very winnable games. They also face the Giants and Redskins in back to back weeks, but once again winnable games. They go on the road against Cleveland and Detroit, which are a little tougher, but Carolina stands the chance to come away with more than half of their projected wins in this area. Adding in the Tampa games, Carolina’s schedule is very good.
Returning The Slower Pace? - Carolina was bottom five in pace last season, and it showed quite a bit when looking at average time of possession. Only Philadelphia had a higher average, with Carolina sitting second. The Panthers were geared towards the running game, and controlling the pace of play. While Norv Turner is in town, you have to think the Panthers continue to go this way. It provides a lot of opportunity to wear down opposing defenses, but also gives their defense a chance to rest. We will be able to tell if the pace remains the same within the first few weeks of the season.