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Can the Panthers Compete for a Playoff Spot in 2011?

It seems every time I break down how I think we can win it all, or at least be competitive, the naysayers come out and tell me that 4 or 5 wins would be good enough, and we shouldn't expect more.  I disagree.  I'm gonna keep making my point until we either get to win number 8, or loss number 8.  We'll know real soon if I'm right.  I wanted to break this down by looking at team stats, and comparing us to other worst to first teams.

 

The first team I want to brin gup is the Miami Dolphins.  In 2007, the Dolphins were 1-15.  The next year, they won the division at 11-5.  Ronnie Brown led the 2007 team with 600 yards, and Cleo Lemon was the starting QB.  Cam Cameron was the coach.  The next season, Chad Pennington was the QB, Ronnie Brown led the team with over 900 yds rushing, but Ricky Williams contributed 650 yds also, and Tony Sparano was the coach.

Then there were the Rams of last year.  They were 1-15 in 2009, and only averaged 10.9 pts a game with Marc Bulger, who some think should come to Carolina.  They kept the same coach, and added one key player, Sam Bradford.  They were one win away from winning their division at 7-9.  The Seahawks won it at 7-9.

So now I look at our Panthers...after the jump...

So now I look at our Panthers.  Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams have never accomplished the dominance our top two RBs have achieved.  Look at the Rams receivers, Amendola and Avery...nowhere near Smitty, Gettis and LaFell.  I don't even know who their TE is.  We have all the talent to beat anybody.  No team in the league is as complete as we are.  If you look at the Falcons, their LBs and secondary are not all that great, and they had problems with the pass rush.  Look at the Pack, they don't have a dominant running game.  The Patriots need a pass rush.  The Chargers lost their offensive and defensive coordinator.  The Jets are gonna lose at least one, maybe both, of their top two receivers, their running game struggled, and they may lose their #2 CB.  We have holes, but we are extremely talented.  The case could be made for the talent on the Steelers and Ravens, especially on defense, but that's only two teams, and neither of them won the superbowl.

Let's look at some numbers.  Last year we averaged 143 yards passing a game.  Many people predicted Cam would throw for at least 2,000 yards, maybe 2500.  If Cam starts all 16 games, I believe he'll get to 3,000 yds passing.  That's still less than 200 a game.  So it's not all that phenomenal.  Most rookies don't get there because they don't start enough games.  Colt McCoy averaged 197 a game.  Over 16 games, he would've been close to 3200.  Cam can throw as well as McCoy.  Cam has more quality receivers than Bradford and McCoy.  Bradford threw for 3500 yards, with 18 TDs to 15 INTs.

Let's look at the running game.  Maybe it's too much to ask both RBs to get over 1100 yards again, but who's gonna have an off year?  In 2009 and 2010, D-Will and Stew combined for over 2200 yards both seasons.  I think they will combine with Goodson to get to 2000 yards this year.  Add to that about 500 yards from Cam (average of ONLY 32 yards a game, down from 105 ypg in college), and we're at 2500 yards rushing for the season. 

Combine those passing and rushing numbers, and we're at 5500 total yards of offense.  Last year, 5500 yards of offense would've put us at 15th, so I'm not predicting the greatest offense of all time.  But if we go from the 32nd ranked offense to about 15th, that does more to help our CBs and DTs than bringing in new talent.  We were 26th in pts allowed, and 18th in yards allowed.  If we get D-Will and Stew running at full speed again, and Cam has an above average year, it could set us up to have a defense near or in the top 10. 

Those numbers don't guarantee us a superbowl win.  But if things unfold like I expect, then it wouldn't be a stretch for us get something close to the 2008 Dolphins or 2010 Rams.  7-9 is certainly a possibility, and I think 10 wins is not out of the question. 

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