A week from today, we will still be discussing how bummed or elated we are about the Panthers first loss or win of the season. Win or lose, it will be interesting to see who ends up standing out in our first contest with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and beyond.
Will OLB Luke Kuechly extend his stellar play from the preseason into the regular season? How will Beason look when he takes the field for the season opener at less than a hundred percent for the second year in a row? Will Cam take his game to another level? How much better will our special teams be after receiving a much needed overhaul? These are only a few of the many questions that will soon be answered for better or for worse.
With that being said, I thought that a list of ten bold statistical predictions would be a great way to begin a dialogue about what this unique collection of individuals could accomplish by the time the 2012-2013 season comes to a close. Let's begin, shall we?
1. OLB Luke Kuechly will finish the season with over 100 tackles
This will be a difficult benchmark to hit when you consider a few statistics: Only seven outside linebackers finished with over 100 tackles last season, and they were all very good veteran players. That group included Chad Greenway, who led the total tackles category with 154. Furthermore, the last time a rookie outside linebacker had over 100 total tackles was 2009 when Brian Cushing finished with 133 in Houston's opportunistic 3-4 defensive scheme. To be sure, this won't be easy, but for an instinctual player like Kuechly, it is certainly attainable.
2. Joe Adams will finish the season with 2 or more punt returns for touchdowns
Does he seem a bit shaky from the little we've seen of him in preseason? Absolutely. But that doesn't change the fact that he has game changing ability which will lead him to the end zone at least twice.
3. Charles "Big Money" Johnson will finish the season with 12 or more sacks
CJ finished the 2010 season with 11.5 sacks, the most he's tallied in a single season as an NFL player. This is his time to shine, and he'll do just that by breaking his own record.
4. Greg Hardy will finish the season with 8 or more sacks
"The Kraken" needs to double last season's sack total of 4 if he wants to keep his starting role with the Panthers. I say it will happen.
5. Josh Norman will finish the season with 4 or more interceptions
To accomplish this feat, Norman will only have to average one interception every four games. This is certainly possible if this ball hawk is able to lock down the #2 cornerback as quickly and efficiently as he does receivers.
6. Cam Newton will throw 25 or more touchdown passes and 15 or less interceptions
This will be just the type of improvement that Cam will be looking to show after finishing last season with a respectable 21 touchdown passes and 17 interceptions as a rookie.
7. Medlock will make a 60 yard field goal
Timing will be the key to this prediction coming to fruition. Rivera most likely won't be throwing Medlock out there to try a 60 yard field goal from the 42 yard line unless the game is in the final seconds of the first or second half. Because of this detail, this one might be the most improbable.
8. Newton, Williams, Stewart, and Tolbert will finish the season with a over 2,500 yards rushing
Newton, D-Will, and Stew finished last season with over 2,300 yards rushing. I don't see why this quartet couldn't surpass this total, and then some.
9. Steve Smith, Brandon Lafell, and Greg Olsen will finish the season with over 3,000 yards receiving
Say hello to the Panther's newest big three. Each one of these guys could go over 1,000 yards receiving, but I don't think this will be the final breakdown. Smitty will finish with 1,200; Lafell and Olsen will finish just shy of a grand with 900 yards each.
10. The Panthers will finish the season with a 10-6 record
Another 4 game improvement from last season may go beyond any of our wildest dreams, but this will become a reality if the Panthers stay healthy at their key positions.
What do you think CSR nation? How many of these ten predictions do you agree or disagree with? What are some of your predictions? Let us know what you think in the poll and the open thread.