There are many ways to view the Carolina Panthers for this upcoming season, but one fact is undeniable. The health of Cam Newton will make or break their season.
Unless you are a Panthers fan, it’s easy to forget they were 11-5 and playoff team two years ago and last season they started 6-2, then, Cam Newton injured his throwing shoulder again which led to a Carolina meltdown. They finished 1-7 and 2-6 ATS, with their lone victory in the season finale against New Orleans who was sitting out there regulars.
With two throwing shoulder surgeries in less than three years, there is plenty of speculation about Newton and is there enough offense and defense to compensate for a quarterback the franchise depends on who has never been a pure drop-back passer.
On the other side of the ball, linebacker Luke Kuechly is as smart as they come and they will need a full 16 games from him at an All-Pro level for Carolina to entertain playoff thoughts. And he’s not the only defender who has to show, as others need to play with Kuechly’s effort level.
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Sportsbooks like 5Dimes are not keen on the Panthers as the NFL odds show. Here is what could go good or bad for coach Ron Rivera’s squad this season.
Division Odds: +525 (3rd)
NFC Odds: +2150 (11th)
Super Bowl Odds: +5500 (20th)
Season Win Total: Un8(-120)
Quarterback: Besides going under the knife twice, Newton is 30 years old this season. He’s not a young 30, having been used his skill as a runner and taken big hits for years and not gotten – (Tom) Brady protection – in the pocket as a passer. Newton’s throwing motion would never be taught at quarterback camps and you wonder how his shoulder will again hold up after we reach the midpoint of the season? If the Camster can return completely healthy and utilize the weapons around him, the Cat’s could surprise. The operative word is “could”.
Rest of Offense: Christian McCaffrey was perfectly used last season by the offensive staff, allowing him to show his Swiss Army knife of talents that carved up the competition. OC Norv Turner worked his magic and was extremely creative in getting the pigskin to McCaffrey. With the emergence of DJ Moore at wide receiver, if Newton’s arm holds up, Moore is looking a 1,000+ yards catching the rock in his second year. Adding center Matt Paradis will help provide an anchor in the middle and the offensive line should keep pace with last year’s No.4 rush attack.
Defensive Front Seven: When Newton was unable to really throw the ball, the defense seemed more deflated than the offense. After finishing No.7 in total defense, the Panthers slide to 15th. Part of the problem was a lack of pressure from the defensive line that went from 3rd in sacks to 27th in one year. The entire defensive line was ineffective and each one has to mentally regroup and come to play four quarters each week. Shaq Thompson takes over for the departed Thomas Davis, who was the heart and soul of the defense.
Secondary: With little pass rush, the secondary was exposed, falling to 18th in yards allowed. This group is capable of playing better (we think) and signing safety Eric Reid will improve the Panthers last line of defense. Donte Jackson has some Josh Norman in him, being able to really cover receivers and talk trash at the same time. We’ll have to watch how this contingent comes together.
Panthers Prospects: Making NFL picks and trying to forecast what kind of season the Carolina might have might require a visit to the local fortune teller. If Newton returns 100 percent and all the Panthers best players are playing at a high level, they are capable of winning 9 or 10 games. But that’s always the rub in this situation, expecting everything to go right for any team with various flaws. We’ll back up the oddsmakers and say Carolina is a .500 team and there will be new GM and head coach in Charlotte in 2020.
Doug Upstone wrote this for SportsbookReview.com.