After all the recent talks of draft grades and looking to next years draft, I realised that many fans seemed to be forgetting the big obstacle in the way of Carolina before they can get to next years draft- The 2013 season.
Now it is has been well documented that the Panthers have on paper the toughest schedule in the National Football League, but any of you that are avid followers of this beautiful game also know that the schedule on paper means almost nothing. Denver before last season were looking at a top ten toughest schedule, and by midseason all everyone was talking about was the easy schedule that they had and were facing. Like with everything in the NFL, things can change in a heartbeat, and so I thought I'd dig a little deeper and have a look at the upcoming season schedule, and a realistic yet optimistic position that the Panthers can be in come next April and the draft. Now also it must be noted that like everyone here, I am a crazy Panthers fan and hope the Panthers will win every game and get to the Superbowl, but this is about being realistic as well as optimistic, and with SF, NE and Seattle on the schedule, its not going to be easy. Anyway, without further ado, this is how I see the season shaping up
For any of you that need reminding of the schedule, it can be found here- The Panthers 2014 Schedule
Week 1 vs Seahawks- L
After a tough offseason and preseason, the Panthers will be going into this game with the bookies against them. Seattle's defense is well documented as being ballhawking, tough and very very good, not to mention young Russell Wilson and his weapons on offense. The Panthers will be playing at Bank of America though and if the defense can play as well as its capable of, then a repeat of last years game against Seattle is not unlikely- very low scoring and very close. This one comes down to the protection Cam gets from his hog mollies. Prediction- CAR 15, SEA 18
Week 2 at Bills- W
The Bills have invested into the future by taking the raw EJ Manuel, and without another Star caliber signal caller, I think they'll take some time to aclimatise. The Panthers rush gets to Manuel and messes him around, and the Panthers win this one. Prediction- CAR 28, BUF 14
Week 3 vs Giants- W
All Panthers fans are still reeling from the horrible loss suffered at the hands of the Giants last year on MNF, and it was not enjoyable to watch. However, if you watch the film, this was due almost entirely to the fact that the DT's got abused inside, and we got ran over. Hakeem Nicks is always injured, Victor Cruz is in contract disputes and that could be a factor, and what's more, the Giants reached in the draft for an O-lineman. I think the Panthers can steal this, unless Eli has anything NORTY up his sleeve. Prediction- CAR 31, NYG 26
Week 5 at Cardinals- W
The Cards improved their QB situation with Palmer, and solidified an already good defense in the draft. Lucklily for every team that plays them, they did nothing to address the OT position. Yes they took Cooper in the 1st round, but that was no way near enough to make up for the over 50 sacks per season they have given up recently. Hardy and Johnson hammered Palmer vs Oakland last year, and the Cards are missing MLB star Washington with a ban. Prediction- CAR 26, ARI 18
Week 6 at Vikings- L
The Vikings made the postseason last year entirely due to AP being amazing. This year he'll be even better, and they have greatly improved their defense with addidtions in the draft. Not to mention finally giving Ponder a few serios weapons that run more than bubble screens (see Percy Harvin). I think this will be an important game if Carolina want to make the playoffs, but they will just be pipped. Prediction- CAR 22, MIN 28
Week 7 vs Rams- W
Jeff Fisher has done alot of things right since taking over the dismal Rams franchise. He's given the defense an identity and has built around Sam Bradford well. The O line is now much improved, but there are still holes on the inside, and what's more, Bradford still lacks that big bodied outside WR or TE that can go up for the catch. I love Austin and think he'll be great, but he's not enough and feels like an Amendola upgrade but nothing more. Carolina's defense wins this one. Prediction CAR 18, STL 13
Week 8 at Buccaneers- L
The Panthers seem to struggle against the Bucs, perhaps because their run defense was so suffocating last season. Throw the best CB in the NFL and a fringe first round CB, along with pro bowler Goldson, and this defense will make noise next year. Look for Cam to have a poor game and be picked off a few times on Revis island. Prediction- CAR 13, TB 22
Week 9 vs Falcons- W
It was great to see Matty Ice being embarassed last season in this game after his arrogance in the Falcons home game (look it up it was awful.) The offense will be firing on all cylinders though so Carolina has its work cut out, but the defense of the Falcons is also not as good as it once was, and look for this rivalry to be a high scoring affair. Prediction- CAR 35, ATL 32
Week 10 at 49ers- L
This is an unfortunate one. The best team in the NFL and I don't even think its close. The rich got richer as they took Lattimore as a mid round steal, and filled every need twice over. Its not impossible that they win every game this season, and although the Panthers are improving, they are no match for this titan. Prediction CAR 21, SF 36
Week 11 vs Patriots- L
I have thought long and hard about this one, but for some reason, Tom Brady just doesnt lose these games against the young up and coming teams. I want to say the Panthers can cause an upset, but I just don't see it happening. Prediction- CAR 28, NE 31
Week 12 at Dolphins- W
This is a huge swing game for Carolina, and a game that is evenly matched. Both young and good teams with young and good quarterbacks. The edge goes to Carolina purely because Jeff Ireland has manufactured too big a 'dream team' on paper, and I feel like the chemistry won't be instant. If Carolina win this, the season will be a good one. Prediction CAR 28, MIA 18
Week 13 vs Buccaneers- W
This is another must win, and I think Rivera and Newton will win this one. The crowd need to play a part, but the defense can mess up Freeman and he is known to force throws when under pressure. Defense wins championships. Prediction- CAR 18, TB 10
Week 14 at Saints- L
The Saints will want revenge for the two losses Carolina slapped them with last season, and with Sean payton back and an improved defense led by rookie Kenny Vaccaro, Drew Brees and co will make the secondary pay for some mistakes. Prediction- CAR 31, NO 36
Week 15 vs Jets- W
The Jets are going to suck this year. They have not a single weapon on offense, and no real QB. The defense will be solid, but the Panthers will bully the Jets in the run game. Prediction CAR 24, NYJ 8
Week 16 vs Saints- W
Another high scoring affair, the Panthers and Newton will get the better of the Saints due to the fact that the defense learns from it previous mistakes and steps it up at home in this big rivalry. Prediction- CAR 30, NO 26
Week 17 at Falcons- L
A huge game for both teams, since it may decide the fate of the playoffs, and the Panthers will play their hearts out and give it everything, to fall painfully short and lose out on a spot in the playoffs. Ryan and co put together a very strong performance and Cam can't quite keep up with his lack of weapons. Prediction- CAR 25, ATL 33
Final record: 9-7.
Finally a winning season in Carolina! Due to the ultra tough NFC, the Panthers miss the playoffs, but have alot to be happy about and alot to build on (hopefully they go all out on offense as I explain here.
Something to take into next season and more importantly, do not let the paper schedule scare you. Carolina is a very good team and there is no reason why they can't be forging deep into the playoffs in a couple of seasons time.
As always, thanks for reading. and please share your opinions on how you think the season will go by giving ur expected record, along with anything you disagree with about what I've said. After all I'm no expert, just someone who loves this game.