The Comeback is previewing all 32 NFL teams from worst to first leading up to the start of the 2018 regular season on Sept. 6. Up next in our preseason rankings are the constantly yo-yoing Carolina Panthers.
2017 in a nutshell: Good-not-great on offense, good-not-great on defense, but just good enough to sneak into the playoffs in a tough division with an 11-5 record. Dating to 2012, they’ve bounced from seven wins to 12 wins to seven wins to 15 wins to six wins to 11 wins. Make up your damn mind, Panthers!
What’s different: They’ve got two new coordinators and they’ve added rookie first-round pick D.J. Moore and veteran Torrey Smith to quarterback Cam Newton’s arsenal.
Why they could be awesome: Newton is one of the most uniquely talented players in the game, and he could excel with Moore on board, tight end Greg Olsen healthy and running back Christian McCaffrey primed to break out in his second season.
Why they could suck: Newton hasn’t been consistent, nor has his team. His offensive line is in bad shape and the Panthers inexplicably suck in even-numbered years.
The Carolina Panthers are the ultimate NFL yo-yo.
Last three odd-numbered years: 38-10.
Last three even-numbered years: 20-27-1.
— Brad Gagnon (@Brad_Gagnon) August 24, 2018
Major additions: Moore, Smith, offensive coordinator Norv Turner, veteran defensive tackle Dontari Poe.
Major losses: Guard Andrew Norwell, tight end Ed Dickson, defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, safety Kurt Coleman, offensive tackle Daryl Williams (torn MCL).
Breakout watch: McCaffrey averaged just 2.8 yards per carry during the first half of his rookie season in 2017, but that number increased to 4.7 in the second half. He also looked strong in the team’s playoff loss to the New Orleans Saints. Watch for a big sophomore season from the No. 8 overall pick out of Stanford.
Position to watch: Smith has’t been productive in about half a decade and Moore is unproven, leaving a lot on the shoulders of fourth-year second-round pick Devin Funchess at the wide receiver position. Carolina also lacks depth there, so it’ll be hoping for a better second season from second-rounder Curtis Samuel.
Prediction: Left tackle Matt Kalil and guard Amini Silatolu are also dealing with injuries, leaving Newton’s line a mess. The defense looks strong, but not special, and Newton can’t carry the offensive load on his own. That 2015 MVP season looks like an anomaly. The NFC South is too strong for the Panthers to get back to the playoffs.
9-7, 3rd place in the NFC South