Cam Newton added the firepower needed to put a spark back in Carolina Panthers’ fans. They spent the last few years without an identity and tore through three bad quarterbacks the year before his arrival. Expectations are now at an all-time high for the franchise, but can they deliver?
Fans need to take a step back from Newton’s hype and remember they were the worst team in the NFL as recently as 2010. If they can slowly improve their team each year, they are building a foundation to be a yearly contender…but they are not there yet.
Carolina was 6-10 in 2011 and Newton won the ‘Rookie of the Year’ award. He broke a handful of rookie records and teams will now be building defensive plans to stifle him. Can he still produce with the entire team’s defensive game plan focused on only shutting him down?
Key Additions: RB Mike Tolbert, LB Luke Kuechly, WR Joe Adams, S Haruki Nakamura, S Reggie Smith, OG Mike Pollack, OG Amini Silatolu, DE Frank Alexander and LB Kenny Onatolu.
Key Losses: LB Dan Connor, WR Legedu Naanee, OG Mackenzy Bernadeau, DT DeMario Pressley and OG Geoff Schwartz.
Non-Division Schedule: AFC West and NFC East
Fantasy Sleeper: WR David Gettis – Gettis is a very interesting sleeper this year. He suffered an ACL tear last season and never had the opportunity to experience the regular season with Cam Newton. He had 500+ yards in 2010 with a hodgepodge of quarterbacks throwing to him (Matt Moore, Jimmy Clausen and Tony Pike). Steve Smith had a Pro Bowl year in 2011 and Brandon LaFell had a promising season with 613 receiving yards. Gettis should win the #3 WR spot over Armanti Edwards and Joe Adams. Adams is someone to keep your eye on as a very deep sleeper. He is an impressive talent and could impress Carolina’s coaching staff in training camp.
Team Analysis: I am in the minority with my opinion of Carolina in 2012. I foresee teams going all-in on stopping Newton and causing a sophomore slump. If teams can keep him in the pocket and double-team Steve Smith, he’ll have a tough season. He will have to rely on Greg Olsen and Lafell heavily. Another reason for a regression in Newton’s numbers is the acquisition of Mike Goodson. He was a touchdown vulture in San Diego and Rob Chudzinski, Carolina’s offensive coordinator, was his coach there. Newton will not get the goal line carries he received in 2011. Carolina did add a nice young defensive piece by drafting Kuechly, but they need to fill a few more gaps on defense to stop New Orleans and Atlanta. Charles Johnson had a great season last year, but he needs more helping rushing the passer. I don’t see Carolina doing much this year, but keep an eye on them in 2013 and beyond. They need more playmakers on defense and another receiver to become a dependable option before they are playoff contender.
2012 Wins Over/Under Line: 7.5 (Prediction: UNDER)
2012 Projected Win/Loss Record: 6-10