2016 Record - 6-10-0
Head Coach - Ron Rivera
Offensive Rank - 19th (344 yards per game, 23 points scored per game)
Defensive Rank - 21st (360 yards allowed per game, 25 points allowed per game)
Quarterback Cam Newton will look to get back to his 2015 NFL MVP form this season after a downer last year when he threw for 3,509 yards with 19 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Newton also rushed for 359 yards and five scores. Derek Anderson and Joe Webb are the reserves.
Veteran running back Jonathan Stewart led the Panthers with 824 yards rushing (nine TD) but was starting to show his age. Rookie RB Christian McCaffrey (Stanford) will get his chances to run the ball along with Fozzy Whittaker and Cameron Artis-Payne.
Kelvin Benjamin (63 receptions, 941 yards, seven TD) came back strong from injuries that kept him out for the entire 2015 season. Tight End Greg Olsen had 80 receptions for 1,073 yards and three touchdowns. Also available will be Devin Funchess (23, 371, 4 TD), free agent Russell Shepard and rookie Curtis Samuel (Ohio State).
Luke Kuechly leads the defense at middle linebacker, along with Mario Addison (nine QB sacks), Kawann Short (six sacks) and 16-year veteran Julius Peppers, who is back for a second tour with the Panthers in the front seven. Safety Kurt Coleman (four interceptions) and LB Thomas Davis (three INT) are also impact players for the defense.
OUTLOOK FOR 2017 - After being humiliated by the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50 two years ago, the Panthers crashed back to earth last season.
Head Coach Ron Rivera will be looking for the team to bounce back big time in the NFC South, where Atlanta, New Orleans and Tampa Bay are looming.
Cam Newton is the spark plug for the team and if he can get back to anywhere near the player he was in 2015, the Panthers can get right back to the playoffs this season. The defense must also get back to the form they showed in 2015 as well.
It will not be an easy task for Carolina to get back to the playoffs, but they are certainly capable of doing so. Playing better defense in the red zone will make a difference. Only six teams allowed more points than the Panthers did last season.
The way things can turn around in one season for teams seems to be the norm these days in the NFL, but the Panthers have questions to answer as they enter the new season. Look for a 9-7 finish this year, which might be good enough to get a wild card playoff spot.
Week One - at San Francisco
Week Two - vs. Buffalo
Week Three - vs. New Orleans
Week Four - at New England
Week Five - at Detroit
Week Six - vs. Philadelphia
Week Seven - at Chicago
Week Eight - at Tampa Bay
Week Nine - vs. Atlanta
Week Ten - vs. Miami
Week Eleven - BYE
Week Twelve - at NY Jets
Week Thirteen - at New Orleans
Week Fourteen - vs. Minnesota
Week Fifteen - vs. Green Bay
Week Sixteen - vs. Tampa Bay
Week Seventeen - at Atlanta