Let's start with Vegas, who thinks the Panthers will sink to the middling class of the NFL and finish with no better than 8 wins:
NFL Season Win Totals Openers - NFL - Forums - Pregame.com
Carolina Panthers: Wins 8.5 Over:-120 Under:100
So if you think the Panthers will again have a winning season then all it will take is 9 wins so put your money out there. I think its a good bet. The Panthers ESPN beat writer seems to agree:
NFL Nation: How will your team finish? - NFL Nation Blog - ESPN
The Panthers never have had consecutive winning seasons and there hasn't been a repeat champion in the NFC South since the division was formed in 2002. There's no reason to believe that will change for a Carolina team that has to rebuild its offensive line, receiving corps and secondary. -- David Newton
Okay so history is not on our side but since when does history suit up on Sunday? If I'm Ron Rivera I use this notion as a motivational tool all season.
Honestly I can see being skeptical of the Panthers but a drop from 12 to 8 wins with a schedule that is equal or maybe even easier than last seasons? Do people really think the Panthers lost that much of their team to free agency or retirement?
We've already discussed on CSR that the new group of vet receivers had just as much production as last seasons group. I love Steve Smith but his 64 catches for 745 yds and 4 TDs is replaceable. Certainly they can't think that is worth 4 wins.
The secondary is also being retooled but again, we had a collection of parts last season that did fine and we seem to have some very comparable replacements.
The one area where I agree there is concern is the offensive line but again, the loss of one guy, LT Jordan Gross will result in 4 fewer wins? We won 12 games last season with a collection of back-ups at both OG positions and a RT that was pedestrian at best. Where's the big drop off?
I think if we add a couple rookie talents at OT and WR and this roster is even better than last seasons roster. That's right, we are only two players and a kick returner away really from a better roster.
Nine wins or more? I'd take that bet if I were a betting man.