With the NFL starting tonight with the defending Super Bowl champs New England hosting Kansas City, the big question around here is will the Carolina Panthers make it back to the playoffs?
I will get to that in a second as I will ATTEMPT to predict the final record for the team.
First, some things that excite me about this edition of the Panthers. I can't wait to see running back Christian McCaffrey do his thing as he could be fun to watch and a terror to opponents for many years to come. Hands down, I think he will be one of the best draft picks ever in this franchise's history-- the second piece to a true "Big 3" for the Carolina Panthers.
Something that worries me on the offensive side of the ball is the lack of snaps quarterback Cam Newton took with the first team during the preseason. The fact that he is ready for the regular season is great but how long will it take for this unit to gel?
On the defensive side, I am excited to cornerbacks James Bradberry and Daryl Worley in year 2. They will certainly be tested all season with the likes of Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, and Jameis Winston. That's just the NFC South quarterback as other like Tom Brady, Matthew Stafford, and Aaron Rodgers will certainly not make it easy for the 2nd year corners and they will ATTACK them.
My biggest concern on the defense is the depth in the secondary. At the starting positions, they are very solid but if one or two go down, things could go down hill for the defense pretty quickly. See the above list of QB.
With that said, here is my break down of the Panthers schedule and a possible final record.
In the NFC South, I see the Panthers splitting with the Falcons and Bucs and sweeping the Saints.
So the wins I see are the 49ers, Bills, Saints twice, Bears, Falcons, Jets, Vikings, Bucs.
The defeats I see are Patriots, at Bucs, Packers, at Falcons.
I think 3 games will make or break this team in 2017. The game at Detroit on October 8th, the Thursday night game vs Philadelphia on October 12th, and the Monday night game November 13th against Miami. I am torn on all of these contests.
I think the Panthers will fall to Detroit because it's a road game in the Motor City. The Lions went 6-2 last season at Ford Field.
I think Carolina will win the Philly game because it will be right here in the Queen City and with it being a prime time game, the Bank should be rocking. A loud home field should be tough on 2nd year QB Carson Wentz.
And I think the Panthers will fall to the Dolphins in the Monday night game. I think Miami will be good this season and even push the Patriots in the AFC East. People will laugh at them adding QB Jay Cutler but don't laugh too hard. One of Cutler's best year as a pro happened when Miami's current head coach Adam Gase was Cutler's offensive coordinator in Chicago. Put a good Cutler with running back Jay Ajayi and dynamic wide receiver Jarvis Landry and this Miami team could be very dangerous as they should have a solid defense as well. Let's not forget, Miami made the playoffs last season and I think they will ride that momentum to an even better 2017.
So in my final analysis, I think the Panthers will go 10-6... at worst, 9-7. 10-6 should get them in the playoffs. 9-7 may have them on the outside looking in. Tampa went 9-7 last season and missed the post season. That's how close it will be for Carolina in 2017.
Of course, the injury situation will play a huge part in this team's success or there lack of.
So buckle up folks, it's going to be a crazy ride in 2017.
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