Carolina always look bad, and Cam Newton doesn't play his best football -- two truths of Panthers' preseason. It might not do much to assuage the fears of a fan base preparing for another down year, but we can compare this version of the Panthers' to years past.
We're only looking at the first two games of each preseason. This allows for 'vanilla play calling' without those pesky starters getting excellent reps.
2011: 270.5 yards per game, 15 points per game
2012: 269.5 yards per game, 18 points per game
2013: 285.0 yards per game, 16.5 points per game
It doesn't look so bad when you look at the numbers in isolation. Points are in the middle, while yards are up -- however, raw numbers don't take into account strength of competition. In 2011 the Panthers faced two extremely talented defenses in the Giants and Dolphins, while in 2012 they saw another two dominant defensive teams in the Texans and once again, the Dolphins.
Chicago and Philadelphia not on the same level as the teams faced in 2011 and 2012 -- but the offensive numbers aren't so bad.
2011: 31/59 (53%), 409 yards (6.9 YPA), 2 TD, 1 INT -- 78.99 combined QB rating
2012: 31/58 (53%), 395 yards (6.8 YPA), 1 TD, 1 INT -- 73.56 combined QB rating
2013: 33/62 (53%), 412 yards (6.6 YPA), 1 TD, 2 INT -- 66.06 combined QB rating
Accuracy remains unchanged, but numbers have dropped across the board otherwise.
2011: 43 attempts, 152 yards (3.5 YPC), 1 TD
2012: 50 attempts, 207 yards (4.1 YPC), 2 TD
2013: 47 attempts, 166 yards (3.5 YPC) 1 TD
This is where the real problem lies in the offense right now. The offensive line has sold Cam Newton short to accommodate the run, but thus far they're only as effective as Rob Chudzinski's run game. If the Panthers are comfortable with six wins, they should keep it up -- but they need to take a huge step forward if we're trying to see them as a playoff team.
2011: 357.5 yards, 15.0 points allowed
2012: 335.5 yards, 21.5 points allowed
2013: 346.0 yards, 16.5 points allowed
The Cam Newton effect
Carolina's quarterback is the most important part of the offense, and needs to be handled correctly if the Panthers hope to have any success in 2013.
2011: 15/33 (45.4%), 200 yards (6.0 YPA), 0 TD, 0 INT -- 65.2 QB rating
2012: 10/17 (59%), 136 yards (8.0 YPA), 1 TD, 0 INT -- 104.0 QB rating
2013: 11/23 (48%), 128 yards (5.6 YPA), 1 TD, 1 INT -- 61.5 QB rating
Newton is far worse than 2012, and worse than his rookie season over two games. The sharp drop in his yards per attempt is extremely worrying too. The offense needs to find a way to better support their franchise QB, and quickly.