What? You crazy. Don't be so silly.
Was this your reaction when you initially read the title of this article? Go ahead and admit it. Some of you felt a fair amount of disdain for my audacity. Before you get riled up, just keep in mind that this top ten isn't so much a bold prediction as it is a list of requirements. In other words, if the Panthers want to make it to the big game, these ten factors will, by my estimation, determine their fate more than any other.
Do you have a list? If so, feel free to share with all of CSR your very own vision of what it will take for this Panthers team to win a championship this season.
10. Special Teams Vastly Improves
We all know the Panthers went out of their way to draft, and sign some free agent special teams studs in order to improve a unit that was solely responsible for at least a loss or two last season. Now is the time for those acquisitions to give us something to cheer about.
9. Byron Bell Or Bruce Campbell Stabilizes The Right Tackle Position
If Bell shows some drastic improvement from last season, it will almost completely wipe the Panthers' previous starting right tackle from our collective memory. If he doesn't, Campbell looks ready to take his spot, and keep it.
8. Jon Beason Returns To His Previous Pro Bowl Form
Beast's Achilles tear in the first game of last season sure did throw some doubts in my own mind about his future in football, but those fears have since been allayed by his quick return to the starting lineup. However, It remains to be seen how quickly he can get back to 100% after "tweaking" his hamstring in preseason.
7. Triple Trouble
Double Trouble received an infusion of power and versatility when the Panthers signed free agent Mike Tolbert. His addition to the running game has a good chance of making the Panther's running attack even more formidable than it already has been, and the possibilities will undoubtedly present more questions than answers for opposing defensive coordinators.
6. Steve Smith Repeats 2011-2012
Smitty didn't lose a step, nor did he lose his passion and desire to be great. He just needed a quarterback who could get him the ball. Now all he has to do is give us another season of greatness.
5. Lafell Breaks Out
It already seems like a foregone conclusion that Brandon Lafell will be the Panther's #2 wide receiver this season. If his improvement from his rookie season to his second season is indicative of what the Panthers can expect in this, his third season, then we are all in for a huge treat.
4. A #2 Cornerback Emerges
This much is clear to me. Munnerlyn isn't the answer.(If you're reading this Captain, please prove me wrong because I would like nothing more than for you to do just that). No matter who it is, the success or failure of the Panthers during the 2012-2013 season, will hinge, in large part, on the development of this key position.
3. Defensive Line Creates A Dominant Identity
If the Panthers have any real aspirations of making it to New Orleans in February, then they must drastically improve their production from the defensive line. It is essential for DT Ron Edwards to make up for lost time by occupying those gaping interior holes that became so egregiously commonplace last season, and the latest addition to this roster, DT Dwan Edwards, will need to be everything that McClain was not. DE Greg Hardy, AKA "The Kraken", give us a reason to continue referring to him by his nickname. Namely, he must establish himself as a more complete NFL defensive end by stopping the run and taking down the QB more often. If he can keep his head on straight, his added weight and strength should give him all the tools he needs to take that important step. DE Charles Johnson, AKA "Big Money", has shown that he can take over at times, but he's got to be more consistently dominant .
2. Kuechly And Company Make Major Contributions
Some of you might question my rationale in placing the rookies this high. Frankly, I believe that it is imperative for this particular group to grow up quick if the Panthers want to make some significant waves this season. For example, look at what the 2007 New York Giants draft class did to propel them to a Super Bowl Championship the following season. They had four key rookie contributors(Aaron Ross, Steve Smith, Kevin Boss, and Amhad Bradshaw) from that championship season, and I suspect the Panthers will need the same from their own rookies. Kuechly is certainly looking like the headliner of this group thus far in camp, but there is also some early signs that the remainder of this draft class could be special. They'll need to be if they want to reach the top.
1. Cam Takes His Game To Another Level
Simple and Plain.