Note: The prediction about Carolina comes from the writers at the Sporting News. Their opinions and comments will make up the beginning of this post with my personal thoughts coming at the end. I do want to point out that it is a bit premature for anyone to make assumptions or predictions regarding the 2011 season as the CBA has now been approved and not every team has their roster firmly established.
It took long enough but finally pro football is back. As much as I would like to go on a tangent about the absurdity of players and owners bickering over revenue when most of us hard working football fans are struggling to get by (yours truly included), it just seems to be a moot point. Anyway, on to the main topic at hand.
A couple of weeks ago, I picked up a copy of the 'Sporting News Pro Football' magazine and I looked at their predictions and assesments of where each team stacked up and who would win their respective division, conference, etc. As most of you know, Carolina is not favored to win anything this year.
According to the magazine, Carolina is not only picked to finish last in the NFC South but last in the league. Thus, guranteeing they will have the number one overall pick in next April's draft. The good news, if you can call it that is that they are predicted to be one game better than they were last year going 3-13. Most of us here at CSR understand the Panthers are in rebuilding mode and the only positive grades issued to the team were given to the running backs and the offensive line; both of them received an A.
The worst grade was issued to (shock) was the defensive line, graded a D. In my opinion, I would have felt the worst grade would have went to the quarterback position but it was given a C-. Another interesting grade I found involved the linebacking corps who was graded with a C+.
What they're saying: In the end, the Panthers are given a grade of 65 but they see their stock rising.
If the offensive line and run game can insulate whichever quarterback the Panthers choose, respectability is not out of the question for 2011. - Sporting News Pro Football
Another thing about how the Panthers will perform this season is based on the impact the lockout had on the new coaching staff, its rookies and established veterans.
There is a significant contingent of young talent here, and harnessing it will be a challenge for a new staff that could have used a full off season.
So while its good to see football return, it's not out of the question for the Panther faithful to brace for another long difficult season.
What I'm saying: I am not a pro sports writer by any means and I, like most of you, voice my opinions as a fan. Whether its good or bad reviews concerning the Panthers, I am always interested in what is said about my favorite team. I think JR had the right idea after unloading the veterans and freeing up some money before last season started. After everything was said and done, he has money to work with and has promised that the Panthers will be aggressive in free agency. How that will pan out is left to be determined. I like Ron Rivera as the head coach. I think he has solid coordinators in Chud on offense and McDermott on defense. I love the fact that we have a QB like Cam Newton on the roster. I just don't see him being a bust. However, we can't make a final determination until he has seen some playing time. This time last year, Jimmey Clausen was making noise in training camp and had a good series in his first preseason game. When the regular season started and he took the reins, he was not ready and it showed. As for our running backs, will DeAngelo Williams stay in Carolina? I would love for him to stay and put up great numbers. I know that Jonathan Stewart is very capable as a starter and if D-Will is gone, he will slide comfortably into that role with Mike Goodson backing him up. What happens to Steve Smith? Is he traded or does the influence of the front office and the selection of Cam Newton enough to keep him around for one more season? Does Charles Johnson stay or go to a contender like the Falcons (god I hope not)?
The one thing about having a team with so many question marks is no one really knows what to expect. I think talent wise they have enough to win 5-6 games this year. The one advantage the Panthers have going for them is with the low expectations, everyone is writing them off (save for us Panther fans). That in itself makes this team very dangerous. Carolina will show up every game but I wouldn't be surprised to see them knock off a couple of playoff bound teams in huge upsets during the season. I will make a bold prediction and say they will split with Atlanta and New Orleans.
My prediction: 5-11, 4th NFC South
I want it noted that I hope I am very wrong in this prediction. I would be ecstatic if not giddy if the Panthers play better than the record I've suggested. Taking everything into consideration I am being realistic. Some may say that giving them five wins is too generous but this is my prediction. I would love to hear everyone else's opinions.