The reigning and defending champions of the NFC South are hoping to repeat their success this upcoming season. The Carolina Panthers made it all the way to the NFC Championship last year.
2013 was the year of the Panthers’ defense. They finished the season ranked 2nd in rushing defense 6th in passing defense and 2nd in overall defense. The had the most sacks in the league and tied for the 5th most interceptions
The Panthers “front seven” emerged as a huge threat with the breaking out of new stars like MLB Luke Kuechly, who finished 4th in the league in tackles, and DE Greg Hardy, who finished 3rd in the league in sacks. DT Star Lotulelei will hope to experience similar success this year. It also featured other established names like OLBs Chase Blackburn and Thomas Davis and DE Charles Johnson.
The Panthers hope to have strengthened their secondary during the offseason adding safeties Thomas DeCoud (great job Falcons) and Roman Harper from the Saints and CB Antoine Cason from the Arizona Cardinals. However, Carolina will go into the season without CB Captain Munnerlyn.
The weakness of the Panthers is offense. Despite being ranked 11th in rushing offense, Carolina is in the bottom fourth of the league in passing offense. They ended 2013 being around the middle of the league in overall scoring.
The offseason saw long time go-to-guy WR Steve Smith Sr. leave for the Baltimore Ravens, the highlight of an arguable depletion of their receiving core. The Panthers found a few band-aid replacement WRs in Jason Avant, Tiquan Underwood, and Jerricho Cotchery. They also signed TE Ed Dickson and drafted WR Kelvin Benjamin.
The Panthers will play the AFC North teams, the NFC North teams and the Philadelphia Eagles. There will also be a NFC Championship rematch in Week 8 when the Seattle Seahawks make their way to Charlotte.
Historically, the champion of the NFC South does not do well the following season. Cam Newton has shown that he isn’t the greatest under pressure and there will be plenty of it this year. With a defense this stacked, I’m not going to officially proclaim that the Panthers will fall off this year … but it doesn’t look good.