It’s that time of year for each of us to go on record and publicly predict the Panthers record before the season begins.
This is my third time putting myself out there like this. In 2020 I predicted a 5-11 record and that’s precisely where the Panthers ended, so I felt pretty cocky going into 2021.
Last year I predicted a 7-10 season which proved to be overly optimistic as the team bungled its way to a 5-12 record. The CSR community had even higher expectations than I had though. Among the 950 CSR readers who participated in last year’s poll, the Panthers record with the most votes was 9-8 with 33% of the overall vote, while a total of 57% of respondents predicted nine wins or more.
Now, on to 2022! Here are my bold predictions. You can be equally as bold by putting your predictions in the comments.
Week 1 vs. Cleveland Browns - Loss (0-1). The Panthers have a lot of new faces on the offense and it’s going to take some time for them to gel. Myles Garret and Jadeveon Clowney keep Baker Mayfield under pressure and rush him into two interceptions. Rookie left tackle Ikem Ekwonu gets beat several times but learns some valuable lessons. The Browns rely on their running game and gradually wear down the Panthers defensive line as Cleveland wins a low-scoring boxing match.
Week 2 at New York Giants - Win (1-1). The Giants are being led by a new head coach in Brian Daboll which can lead to a bumpy beginning of the season, especially with Daniel Jones under center. The Panthers offense finds its groove against a shaky New York defense as Christian McCaffrey reminds fans everywhere how fun he is to watch when he’s healthy.
Week 3 vs. New Orleans Saints - Loss (1-2). The Saints offense is just too explosive as the Panthers defense struggles to pressure Jameis Winston. Michael Thomas, Jarvis Landry, and Chris Olave find way too many open spots in the Panthers secondary while “good Jameis” shows up for an easy win.
Week 4 vs. Arizona Cardinals - Win (2-2). DeAndre Hopkins will miss this game due to suspension and the Panthers defense is able to contain Kyler Murray. Carolina’s offense has a huge day against Arizona’s subpar defense and wins by double digits.
Week 5 vs. San Francisco 49ers - Loss (2-3). The 49ers’ elite defense stifles the Panthers offense and Carolina turns the ball over multiple times in an uncompetitive home loss.
Week 6 at Los Angeles Rams - Loss (2-4). The defending Super Bowl champs continue to play like one of the best teams in the league. The Panthers are not one of the best teams in the league. Carolina loses by double digits for the second time in as many weeks.
Week 7 vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Loss (2-5). Tom Brady unretired to chase another Super Bowl and the Bucs are poised to compete for one. They easily dispatch the Panthers as Carolina’s run of consecutive double digit losses extends to three.
Week 8 at Atlanta Falcons - Win (3-5). The Panthers end their three-game losing streak and take out their frustrations on a really bad Falcons team. The Panthers improve to 3-5 while the Falcons fall to 0-8. (I’m not joking. Take a look at Atlanta’s schedule to start the season).
Week 9 at Cincinnati Bengals - Loss (3-6). Carolina goes on the road against one of the best teams in the AFC and nearly pulls off an upset. Christian McCaffrey puts up over 200 scrimmage yards and ties the game up late with a touchdown run. But in overtime a gassed Panthers defense can’t keep Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase out of the end zone.
Week 10 vs. Atlanta Falcons - Win (4-6). The Panthers dominate the Falcons at home. Matt Rhule becomes a meme with his own version of the Ron Rivera “thumbs up” moment. The Falcons fall to 0-10.
Week 11 at Baltimore Ravens - Loss (4-7). Baltimore’s dominant defense makes a statement at home by holding the Panthers to nine points through three quarters. Lamar Jackson breaks off multiple big runs that leave Panthers fans wistfully reminiscing of previous days when Cam Newton was the NFL’s MVP…
Week 12 vs. Denver Broncos - Loss (4-8). Behind Russell Wilson, the Broncos are in the thick of the AFC playoffs hunt. The Panthers are dinged up and in need of their upcoming bye week. Carolina fights hard but Wilson is just too slippery in leading the Broncos to a win.
Week 13 - Bye
Week 14 at Seattle Seahawks - Win (5-8). The Seahawks have one of the worst quarterback situations in the league and coach Pete Carroll has lost his fastball. Brain Burns has multiple sacks and Jaycee Horn has a pick-six in a big day for Carolina’s defense.
Week 15 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers - Win (6-8). In a “must win” game for the Panthers remote playoff hopes, Carolina does just that. Both defenses show up big time in this low-scoring slugfest but DJ Moore’s late 55-yard catch-and-run sets up a game-winning field goal.
Week 16 vs. Detroit Lions - Win (7-8). The Panthers won’t yet be mathematically eliminated from a wild card playoff spot while the Lions will once again hover around the bottom of the NFC standings. Carolina is playing for survival while the Lions are thinking of Cancun, and the Panthers win at home.
Week 17 at Tampa Bay - Loss (7-9). Tampa Bay is looking to wrap up home field in the playoffs. Carolina’s front four can’t get pressure on Tom Brady who stands in the pocket like a middle-aged statue and picks apart the Panthers secondary.
Week 18 at New Orleans - Loss (7-10). The Panthers have been eliminated from the playoffs while a win for New Orleans secures a wild card spot for the Saints. Jameis Winston gets injured on the game’s first possession after Frankie Luvu blows him up on a lethal strip-sack. Backup quarterback Andy Dalton is questionable with a groin injury, so the Saints turn to Taysom Hill. The former BYU standout throws for 300 yards and rushes for 100 more as Carolina loses in the most demoralizing way possible to end their season. (Disclosure: I’m a BYU grad and therefore a huge Taysom fan, so the way I have the Panthers losing is more of a fever dream than reality, though I do see the Saints winning this game.)
With seven wins I see the Panthers taking a step forward in 2022. The biggest variable for the Panthers, as with most every team, is health. Assuming key cogs like Baker Mayfield, Christian McCaffrey, and Jaycee Horn remain generally healthy, I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Panthers hovering around .500 by season’s end.
Carolina’s offensive line should be vastly improved this year when compared to last season. Baker Mayfield is clearly better than Sam Darnold. DJ Moore and Robbie Anderson are a solid 1-2 receiving combo, but the Panthers will need one of the next tier of receivers - Terrace Marshall Jr., Laviska Shenault, Rashard Higgins, or Shi Smith - to emerge as a legitimate 700-yard type contributor. The tight end position frustratingly remains a glaring weak spot.
The Panthers defensive line could be pretty good, or pretty “meh”. Brian Burns can get pressure on the quarterback but he isn’t great against the run. On the opposite edge, Yetur Gross-Matos is completely unproven as a starter and there’s shockingly little depth behind him and Burns. Derrick Brown and Matt Ioannidis are serviceable but they haven’t proven to be difference makers in the middle. Carolina’s linebackers are devoid of Pro Bowl talent.
But Carolina’s secondary is really promising. Jaycee Horn could be a stud and Donte Jackson is pretty good when healthy. Promising reports have emerged from camp about the growth of CJ Henderson, but I’ll believe it when I see it. Safeties Jeremy Chinn and Xavier Woods are exceptional against the run.
The greatest hopes for the 2022 season are: 1) Baker Mayfield proves to be an above average quarterback and the Panthers sign him to a multi-year extension. This can’t be another wasted season at quarterback like last year was with Sam Darnold. 2) Ikem Ekwonu flashes Pro Bowl potential. 3) Jaycee Horn becomes a lockdown defender. 4) Christian McCaffrey reduces his workload, still impacts every game, and remains healthy.
Even if the Panthers go 7-10 and miss the playoffs again, they’ll have a solid foundation heading into 2023 provided those four goals can be reached. Carolina has been slowly drifting through an oft confusing rebuild, but there’s clearly light at the end of the tunnel as 2022 kicks off!
How many games will the Panthers win in 2022?
This poll is closed
11 or more
3 or less