The Carolina Panthers are in what has become the toughest division in the NFL. The NFC South has the New Orleans Saints led by Drew Brees, they brought back most of last year’s roster and they signed talented wideout Emmanuel Sanders.
The Atlanta Falcons also got better by signing running back Todd Gurley and they still have Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and Calvin Ridley. If healthy, this team can make some serious noise.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are also in this division and unless you’ve been living under a rock you have to know that they signed Tom Brady, who helped bring Rob Gronkowski out of retirement and he will also have more talented weapons at his disposal, including wideouts Mike Evans and Chris Godwin and tight end O.J. Howard, along with a defense that finished fifth in DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) last season.
Cam Newton Out
The Panthers recently moved on from franchise quarterback Cam Newton after nine seasons. Newton, the best player in the history of the team, was allowed to seek a trade on March 17th but there were no trade partners because of his health, and a week later the Panthers released him.
The Panthers lost 20-14 against the Buccaneers on September 12th and in that game, Newton re-aggravated a foot injury that he had on an August 22nd preseason contest against the Patriots, when he left the game near the end of the first quarter and was seen limping to the locker room.
Newton dealt with many injuries in recent years. For example, he underwent an “arthroscopic procedure” on his right shoulder in January after surgery on a torn rotator cuff in the same shoulder in March 2017.
The 30-year-old threw for over 3,000 yards in each of his first eight seasons in the league, even after missing the final two games of the 2018 season. He threw for 3,395 yards (completing 67.9 percent of his passes) with 24 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in that year.
The signal-caller really struggled last season, as he completed just 50 of 89 passes for 572 yards and one interception for a Panthers team that opened the season 0-2 after home losses against the Rams and Buccaneers.
Newton hasn’t thrown a touchdown in four straight games. His last touchdown pass was in a 24-17 loss at Tampa Bay on December 2nd, 2018. The Panthers went 0-8 in Newton’s last eight games as their starting quarterback dating back to the 2018 season.
Bridgewater and McCaffrey’s Turn to Lead
Christian McCaffrey recently signed a four-year contract extension with the Panthers that averages $16 million per year. This new deal made him the highest-paid running back in NFL history, surpassing Ezekiel Elliott of the Cowboys, who is making $15 million per year.
Carolina’s Christian McCaffrey is signing a four-year extension, averaging $16 million per year, making him the highest-paid running back in NFL history, sources tell ESPN.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 13, 2020
McCaffrey ran for 1,387 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns on 287 carry in 16 games last season. He also caught 116 passes for 1,005 receiving yards and four scores.
The Panthers selected McCaffrey with the eighth overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft and he has never missed a game in three years in the league. McCaffrey’s 2,392 all-purpose yards last season led the NFL.
“I’m so excited to continue my career in Carolina,” McCaffrey said. “I want to thank Mr. Tepper, Marty Hurney, and Coach Rhule for the opportunity to help lead this great franchise, and to all my teammates for their help along the way. And to Panthers fans, KEEP POUNDING!”
McCaffrey’s father is former NFL wide receiver Ed McCaffrey. The talented running back from Stanford is the only player in NFL history with 2,500 rushing yards and 2,500 receiving yards in the first three seasons of his career. He also holds the record for most receptions by a running back in a single game (15) and most receptions in a single season (116).
As a dual-threat from the backfield, the Panthers run their entire offense through him and many people thought that he deserved NFL MVP consideration last season. In the end he didn’t receive any votes but he was in the mixt to be the NFL Offensive Player of the Year.
The 287 carries and 142 targets through the air that McCaffrey had ensured more plays designed for him in a single season than for any other player in Panthers history. The 23-year-old has 2,920 rushing yards and 24 touchdowns on 623 carries in 48 career games with the Panthers and he has 303 catches for 2,523 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns on 379 targets.
“The league is shifting,” McCaffrey told ESPN in 2019. “It’s becoming a smaller league, way more speed-dominant. So you’re seeing more backs like me who can run between the tackles, pass-protect, catch and become matchup nightmares.”
Carolina Panthers Props for 2020 Season
Odds to Win NFC South (By sportsbookreview.com)
New Orleans Saints +110
Tampa Bay Buccaneers +120
Atlanta Falcons +800
Carolina Panthers +1500
Carolina Panthers to Make the Playoffs
Under 5.5 Wins -120
Over 5.5 Wins -110
Carolina Panthers Exact Win Total
NFL Final Standings
NFC South Carolina Panthers
The Panthers are in rebuilding mode but I like how they are doing it the right way. This team can be competitive again in the near future.
Christian McCaffrey is now the face of the franchise and is coming off the best season of his career. He clearly has his best years ahead of him. The Panthers have many needs on their offensive line, defensive line, and secondary but adding Teddy Bridgewater under center why I think they can exceed expectations.
While Bridgewater hasn’t been a starting quarterback in the NFL for five years, he proved that he was ready to go when the Saints needed him last season, and when healthy he is a very special player. I am taking the Panthers to finish third in the NFC South at +400.