Carolina Panthers Season Predictions
We’re just a little more than two days away from real, actual, meaningful NFL games… Finally. The preseason has come and gone, and before we know it the Carolina Panthers will be boarding a flight to head down to Tampa Bay to face off with the Buccaneers. With that in mind, it’s the height of prediction season. Here is how I see the 2014-2015 season playing out.
Week 1 @ Tampa Bay Sunday 4:25 PM
Loss: 17-23 (0-1) The Panthers week 1 woes continue as Rivera and Cam fall to 0-4 in season openers. As most of you know, I have been on the Bucs bandwagon all summer and even since that time they have continued to make positive strides. Looking across NFC, I don’t think there’s a team that improved more in the entire conference. The offensive line was obviously an issue throughout the preseason but, thanks to a surprising late trade, they addressed that need in a trade with the Patriots that landed them 6-time Pro Bowl Guard, Logan Mankins. On the road, hostile environment for a team that’s prone to slow starts offensively — unfortunately, these factors spell a defeat.
Week 2 Vs Detroit Sunday 1:00 PM
Win: 31-24 (1-1) The Cats get a nice bounce-back, and very important victory against a Lions squad who some believe could be in the mix for one of the Wild Card playoff spots in the NFC this season. Matt Stafford, for all of his offensive prowess, is prone to the turnover and that will be his downfall once again here. This will also be a breakout game for Rookie WR, Kelvin Benjamin. The Lions were 23rd in the League last season against the pass and they will struggle mightily to keep KB in check. The Panthers take care of the ball and start out their home campaign with a really solid win.
Week 3 Vs Pittsburgh Sunday 8:30 PM
Win: 24-16 (2-1) Don’t call it a streak, but Cam and Company get a second straight victory. Cam has shown the propensity to have some of his best performances when the lights are the brightest. He’ll do it again in primetime, Sunday Night Football. Mike Mitchell will be served a painful reminder of how good he had it in Carolina when he sees the Panthers front 7 dominate the Steelers O-Line all night. Don’t fret, though. There’ll be plenty of Terrible Towels around Bank of America Stadium for Steelers fans to dry their tears with after this one.
Week 4 @ Baltimore Sunday 1:00 PM
Win: 23-20 (3-1) The “Blood and Guts” game will be a nailbiter, and why shouldn’t it be? This will be a very impressive road game for the Panthers. Steve Smith has been doing what he always does since he signed in Baltimore — talk. You can bet the Panthers have been taking notes, though. Emotions will be high, and you can count on this one going down to the wire. Just as much as Smitty thinks he’ll have something for the Panthers, Carolina’s defense will be intent on making him eat those words. This one will be fun. And, oh yeah, you can call it a streak now. That’s three straight.
Week 5 Vs Chicago Sunday 1:00 PM
Loss: 27-31 (3-2) Not many teams will put up 30 on this defense, but Marc Trestman’s offense has that type of capability. This will be a perfect storm situation. Coming off of the emotional game in Baltimore and meeting an offense that saw early success a season ago. This is why that good start was so imperative as this game starts a brutal stretch for the Carolina Panthers. They’ll definitely find out the mettle and makeup of this team over this span of games and, unfortunately, I think it starts out with a loss.
Week 6 @ Cincinnati Sunday 1:00 PM
Loss: 16-20 (3-3) The road doesn’t get any easier here. This will be a grind and a defensive battle, but the offense will come up a little short. A.J. Green could prevent some serious problems on the outside for the Panthers secondary, although this unit should keep most everyone else in check. This could be the first game we see the offensive line struggle as well. If Geno Atkins can remain healthy, this will be one of the most formidable defensive lines in the League. In the end, just a tough road game and a tough result.
Week 7 @ Green Bay Sunday 1:00 PM
Loss: 23-24 (3-4) Chalk this “L” up to one of the greatest QBs in the games just doing what he does best. This will be a late, game-winning, touchdown drive by Aaron Rodgers. This defeat will certainly sting. Especially considering it will be the third straight loss, coming off of the heels of a three-game win streak. The only positive thing coming out of this game will be that Panthers’ fans can be grateful for the fact they don’t have to live in Wisconsin.
Week 8 Vs Seattle Sunday 1:00 PM
Win: 16-12 (4-4) There’s no place like home. As disappointing as that three-game skid was, this win will go a long way in erasing the bad memories. Aside from halting a losing streak, the revenge factor will also play nicely as well. Panthers fans have not forgotten about the painful loss suffered last season to the eventual Super Bowl champs, and neither has Riverboat Ron. He’ll get DeAngelo the winning rushing TD in this one to kick the losing streak to the curb and push the record back to .500.
Week 9 Vs New Orleans Thursday 8:25 PM
Win: 21-17 (5-4) This goes without saying, but this is a monumentally crucial game. Therefore I’m dubbing it the ” Make-or-Break” contest of the season. A loss could send the Panthers into an unrecoverable tailspin and a win could boost their confidence, vaulting them to a season-saving streak. I’m choosing the latter of the two. Thursday Night game. NFC South Showdown. Cam Vs Brees. Doesn’t get any better than this. I’ve said all along that this is a playoff team in the NFC, and these are the kinds of games that playoff teams win. I’m prepared to eat my words, but I expect the resiliency of this team to carry them up and out of this rough stretch and set them up in a position to complete for one of those highly coveted playoff spots down the stretch.
Week 10 @ Philadelphia Sunday 1:00 PM
Loss: 27-37 (5-5) This concludes their run of games against previous playoff teams at five straight. I’m predicting a shootout, and the Eagles have a little too much firepower for this defense to contain. Uncharacteristically, I see Cam trying to force some balls in order to keep up with the opposing, high-powered attack and turnovers will end up being the difference. 37 Also seems like an odd total, but it seems like an appropriate one for Chip Kelly. He’s probably going to go for the two point conversion 3 or 4 times. Either way, that’s not good news for Panthers, who fall back to an even .500 after 10 games.
Week 11 Vs Atlanta Sunday 1:00 PM
Win: 27-10 (6-5) The Falcons will be a welcome site for this Panthers team. I expect the Falcons struggles’ to continue this season and after a brutal stretch, this should prove to be one of the easier results for Carolina. They’ve dominated the Falcons the last two seasons, and I don’t see that changing this year. Atlanta lack the personnel to protect their QB, and they have no one to get to the opposing QB. That’s a recipe for another bad year, and the Panthers will gladly take advantage of their shortcomings.
Week 12 BYE WEEK
Win: Although it doesn’t count for the record, this will be a great break to rest up, get healthy and summon the mentality necessary to ensure a successful home stretch. This was my favorite week to analyze.
Week 13 @ Minnesota Sunday 1:00 PM
Win: 27-13 (7-5) This will be one where the defense will eat. With Adrian Patterson being the primary source for offense, Sean McDermott’s crew will pack it in and dare Matt Cassell, Teddy Bridgewater, or whoever they have taking snaps to beat them through the air. I expect the Panthers to be able to move the ball with relative ease on this defense which will force the Vikings’ offense to take some chances and the Panthers defense will capitalize. This spoils the third chance for a former Panther to beat this team: Mike Mitchell, Smitty and now Captain Munnerlyn. Panthers roll.
Week 14 @ New Orleans Sunday 1:00 PM
Loss: 20-27 (7-6) This one might hurt a little more than usual. Not only because it’s a hated division rival, but I actually think this game is a prime candidate to be flexed to the Sunday Night game, which could evoke nightmares from last season’s dismantling of the Panthers in primetime. But maybe Jimmy Graham will have a tremendous urge to celebrate his touchdowns by dunking on the field goal posts afterward and cost his team a win. Probably not, though. Drew Brees and the boys hold serve at home and avenge an earlier loss to Carolina at Bank of America Stadium.
Week 15 Vs Tampa Bay Sunday 1:00 PM
Win: 17-16 (8-6) Panther get back on track on here against the Bucs, barely. Home-and-home splits on consecutive weeks set up for a very compelling last couple of weeks in the NFC South, and really the entire division as a whole. This game will also feature a signature 4th quarter, game-winning TD drive from Cam Newton. Additionally, this game will help atone for the loss to the Bucs way back in the opening week of the season. It won’t be a pretty win, but it will be a very important one.
Week 16 Vs Cleveland Sunday 1:00 PM
Win: 31-19 (9-6) Johnny Manziel. Brian Hoyer. It really doesn’t matter. Cleveland sports fans will be locked into LeBron, Kevin Love and the Cavs by this point of the season, and for good reason. The Browns will be one of the more pitiful teams in the league, despite my great faith in new Head Coach Mike Pettine (heavy sarcasm). Regardless, it’s a big win with even bigger NFL playoff implications. One week left.
Week 17 @ Atlanta Sunday 1:00 PM
Win: 28-20 (10-6) It all comes down to this…. The Panthers come up big, and there’s absolutely nothing Atlanta will be able to do to stop it. This will just be the final blow in a season of many Hard Knocks for the Falcons this year. Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Roddy White will have their moments, but it won’t be enough to overcome a resolute Panthers team, focused on the carrot dangling in front of their faces — the NFC Playoffs. The win will push the Panthers into the postseason, while the loss will kickstart a very tumultuous offseason in Atlanta. Mike Smith will be the first domino to fall. Panthers fans will not forego the opportunity to revel in the Falcons demise, but that will hardly compare to the unmitigated joy this fan base will experience as they will finally have a team who has achieved back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in franchise history.
Let the games begin!
Season Final Notes:
Home Record: 7-1
Away Record: 3-5
NFC South: 4-2