ESPN’s John Clayton is yet another guru picking the Panthers to return to the playoffs in 2008. This is sure to annoy a lot of Panthers fans given the last time the Panthers were predicted to make playoff noise. In 2006 the Panthers flopped to 8-8 after being picked by most everyone to win the Super Bowl. No one wants the ‘honor’ of being picked in the preseason to win anymore.
Yet it seems many of the ESPN guru’s are seeing what us Panther fans have been getting excited about since the off-season started.
The Panthers go from a .523 strength of schedule in 2007 to a .465 in '08. Normally, a .020 change in strength of schedule projects to a win if it's easier or a loss if it's tougher. Using that concept, the Panthers have a chance to improve by 2.9 games. They were 7-9 last season.
Jake Delhomme is back from Tommy John surgery. If he can stay healthy for 16 games, the Panthers have a great chance to make a playoff run. Before elbow problems ended his season in September, the Panthers were averaging 25 points a game, and Delhomme's quarterback rating was above 100. Without him, the Panthers finished with a dismal 16.7-point scoring average.
For personnel, the Panthers went back to John Fox's philosophy of getting big and nasty on the line, adding five 322-pound-plus blockers and running back Jonathan Stewart, a first-round pick. On paper, the Panthers have a great chance to win 10 games this season -- as long as Delhomme stays healthy.
- Cut the dead wood from the roster – check
- Bring in free agent veterans for all positions of need – check
- Beef up the offensive line – double check
- Add playmakers on offense – check
- Get Jake’s elbow healthy – check
- Improve the pass rush – hmmmm…the jury is still out on that one