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Preseason Power Rankings No. 10: Carolina Panthers

Dave Gettleman, Ron Rivera AP

There were points last season when it appeared time to start writing the obituary for Panthers coach Ron Rivera and the team built by former General Manager Marty Hurney.

Then Rivera’s team did a funny thing — they forgot how to lose.

The Panthers won 11 of their final 12 games last year, and only a loss to the 49ers in the playoffs spoiled an unpredictable run built on defense and a singular talent at quarterback.

Of course, they spent the offseason subtracting more than they added, cutting past fat into meat and bone to try to keep a good roster intact.

But that’s what they’re going to have to do for another year or so (when it’s time to pay the next wave of young stars), and they’ve done it well.

Strengths.

In quarterback Cam Newton, the Panthers have perhaps the best bail-out-a-play guy in the NFL.

It seems no play is over for Newton, who has matured as a passer while remaining dangerous as a runner. His ability in short-yardage helped spark last year’s belief that they could win, and his growth as a passer helped him make plenty of big plays through the air as well.

Newton will need to be incredible, because they took away most of his help (more on that in a moment). But he is incredible, and looks comfortable running an offense which is far from cutting-edge.

It doesn’t need to be complex it if works, and he’s reached what appears to be a good relationship with play-caller Mike Shula.

They also have what might be the best defensive front seven in the NFL.

They have a pair (for a year anyway) of double-digit sack ends, which only required using more than 20 percent of their cap to keep them.

Greg Hardy got the franchise tag after an impressive salary drive (7.0 of his 15.0 sacks came in the final two games), while overpaid-but-productive veteran Charles Johnson has been a steady presence (44.0 sacks the last four season) against the run and pass.

Paired with a interior that included 2013 top picks Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short, and a group of linebackers led by Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis, the Panthers can match personnel with anyone in the league.

It’s a front designed to take the pressure off a suspect back, but it did just that a year ago, succeeding without much pedigreed talent in the secondary.

Weaknesses.

As long as you spend so much on defensive ends, you’ve got to scrimp somewhere. So the fact they’re using temps in the secondary is nearly a non-issue.

What they’re doing without on offense is alarming.

The Panthers lost two of the five or six best players in franchise history when Steve Smith was cut and Jordan Gross retired.

Smith was cut for reasons that exceeded age and production, as all the wideouts who caught a pass last year are gone. If he wasn’t so much of a grouch, they’d have possibly let him ride off into the sunset next year, but they wanted to let Newton take control of the locker room as well as the huddle.

Instead, they signed just-a-guys Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant to play stable-pony for first-rounder Kelvin Benjamin.

A good running game (everybody’s healthy for a change) and tight end Greg Olsen take some of the pressure off this odd lot of guys to perform. Which is good, because that seems unlikely.

But for all the consternation about the receivers, what happened to their offensive line is worse.

They needed an upgrade from right tackle Byron Bell, but instead they’re letting him compete for the left tackle job along with converted defensive tackle Nate Chandler. They made a run at former Bengals tackle Anthony Collins in free agency, but otherwise did nothing to improve the team’s most glaring weakness in a post-Gross environment. They’ll find out in a hurry how much they miss Gross, which might make management re-think squeezing veterans into dramatic pay cuts in the future.

The middle of the line could be OK, with center Ryan Kalil there to help along a young group. If former second-rounder Amini Silatolu plays to his pre-injury form, they have a chance. Third-rounder Trai Turner is going to have a chance to win the right guard job, and might have the quickest path to the starting lineup of any of their rookies.

Changes.

Perhaps the biggest change for the Panthers was in Rivera himself.

Once a guy with a 2-14 record in games decided by a touchdown or less, Rivera started rolling the dice and it kept working.

It wasn’t just going for fourth downs (but that’s easier when you have a giant quarterback and a big fat fullback such as Mike Tolbert), there was a different air about the Panthers last season.

They went from playing to unfulfilled potential and bloated salaries to playing like a team with something to prove.

In fact, they did have plenty to prove, as a losing record last season might have triggered a huge house-cleaning by new G.M. Dave Gettleman.

He’s talked for two years about the cap issues created by the previous administration (the cost of owner Jerry Richardson spending none of the money before his lockout, and then spending it all at once afterward). Gettleman’s done a good job of filling in the blanks with day laborers, and appears to have done so again.

Losing players such as Mike Mitchell and Captain Munnerlyn shouldn’t sting as much, considering they were a minimum-wage free agent and a seventh-round pick. He found spare parts before, and has again, with cornerback Antoine Cason and safeties Roman Harper and Thomas DeCoud in line to be this year’s beneficiaries of a pass rush.

Camp Battles.

The Panthers need to find a pair of starting wideouts, and it would be swell if Benjamin would grow into the job in a hurry. Beyond that, they have a bunch of unproven receivers who will be angling for significant roles, from journeyman haircut Tiquan Underwood to kids including Marvin McNutt and Tavarres King.

There’s also some shuffling among the offensive line jobs and in the secondary, with plenty of roles to fill.

One guy who might need to win a job is former starting safety Charles Godfrey, who tore his Achilles last year and then was forced into a pay cut just to have a chance. Godfrey could end up playing as their nickel, and he has some corner skills from his college days. Whether he can run remains to be seen.

Prospects.

It’s hard to not expect regression, considering the way the Panthers exceeded every reasonable expectation last year.

Their defense and Newton gives them a solid base to build upon, but it will only get harder from here.

They’re built to beat the best teams in the conference, and might have played the Seahawks tougher than anyone in Week One (before anybody realized they were any good).

If they find two dependable tackles and can get something — anything — from their receiving corps, they have a chance to pull off the first back-to-back winning seasons in franchise history.

But it’s hard to consider either of those feats a given, which makes this a team which could still play well, but win far fewer games.

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86 Responses to “Preseason Power Rankings No. 10: Carolina Panthers”
  1. peefrimgar says: Jul 18, 2014 9:06 AM

    I’d really like to see the logic behind putting the Ravens over the Panthers. Then again, logic is hardly used in Power Rankings anyway…

  2. bassplucker says: Jul 18, 2014 9:08 AM

    How does a team with zero proven WRs, a running game on the decline and real question marks on the OL, make it to the Top 10?

    Cam is good — and their defense is better than good — but it takes more than that.

  3. rainponcho87 says: Jul 18, 2014 9:08 AM

    wildcard at best

  4. ctiggs says: Jul 18, 2014 9:09 AM

    They will go back to being 6-10 this year. We waxed the kittens all over the field in the playoffs. #Goniners #Nobodyhasitbetter #Kaep>>FigNewton

  5. wydok says: Jul 18, 2014 9:09 AM

    You know, I think I buy this. Carolina probably won’t win the NFC south, but they will be a playoff team.

  6. ctiggs says: Jul 18, 2014 9:09 AM

    They will go back to being 6-10 this year. We waxed the kittens all over the field in the playoffs. #Goniners #Nobodyhasitbetter #Kaep>FigNewton

  7. bringin1234 says: Jul 18, 2014 9:15 AM

    tough to put the panthers top 10. Too many questions to start the season. Can their WRs actually produce, is Benjamin a 1, which I liked the pick. They have zero talent at corner. Their line is changed, and while they are currently healthy, can the RBs stay that way. Also how long of a suspension is Greg Hardy facing? Tough to put them in the top 10 based on what they are going into the season with

  8. bitw44 says: Jul 18, 2014 9:21 AM

    I really think this team takes a huge step back this year. Saints are better than last year. Falcons will definitely rebound.

    I see them finishing 7-9, or if they start out slow they could totally collapse and finish 4-12 like Atlanta last year.

  9. Straight Cash Homie says: Jul 18, 2014 9:21 AM

    Cam better learn how to run faster and catch. With that group of receivers he might have to throw the ball up and catch it himself. Greg Olsen will more than likely be the leading receiver this year which is not a good thing. If that D can’t hold teams under 7pts I don’t see many wins coming Carolina’s way. Between the WR’s and key Oline replacements anyone expecting last years magic is delusional.

  10. uglydingo says: Jul 18, 2014 9:24 AM

    Miami Dolphins are rated to finish 31st yet the Carolina Panthers are expected to finish 10th and have got little talent at WR. Carolina made the playoffs last year by getting on a run of narrowly winning many games but talent wise their Offense has regressed.
    These Power Rankings are an absolute joke.

  11. tjacks7 says: Jul 18, 2014 9:25 AM

    Way overrated. .500 team at best this year.

  12. hodous says: Jul 18, 2014 9:25 AM

    Over-rated… (Clap.. Clap.. Clap Clap Clap)

  13. uncletuna says: Jul 18, 2014 9:25 AM

    Bottom Feeder with Tampa Bay…

  14. billswillnevermove says: Jul 18, 2014 9:26 AM

    Fluke last year……..this team is not that good….The Bills will finish with a better record. We even beat Carolina last year.

  15. boomnutz says: Jul 18, 2014 9:27 AM

    I’ve been pretty respectful of the rankings so far (it’s easy to criticize without having to back it up with your own rankings) but this one is hard for me to digest. Cam really surprised me with his play last year, i thought he was on his way to bust status. This article suggests he’s better than he is though. He looks to be heading in the right direction, but has a lot of room to improve, he’ll be really tested this year when his offensive line can’t block, his running game falters, and his WRs are mediocre. One side note, Benjamin is a bust – guaranteed. He looks so clunky running routes, he won’t be able to simply box out defenders anymore. Not enough tools in the toolbox. While the front 7 is scary, the secondary is scary on the complete opposite side of the spectrum. If Josh McCown plays like he did last year, for a whole season, there’s no doubt in my mind Carolina finishes 4th in that division.

  16. moeman79 says: Jul 18, 2014 9:30 AM

    Lots of what ifs for your #10 team

  17. rdstpa2 says: Jul 18, 2014 9:32 AM

    Last in NFC south

  18. eaglesw00t says: Jul 18, 2014 9:33 AM

    They arent top 10. They should have been back a few spots.

    I really have to question a few of these slots.

    Preseason rankings are useless anyway though, I guess.

  19. atthemurph says: Jul 18, 2014 9:34 AM

    With that defense and a playmaker at QB anything is possible. Newton will make the WRs better if that OL doesn’t get him killed first.

    I just don’t think they are deep enough to make a serious run but based on the defense alone 10th spot is reasonable.

  20. politicallyincorrect says: Jul 18, 2014 9:35 AM

    this one is downright funny.. so absurd it can’t be a serious thing

    this will be a bad team…… you cite Cam as a strength while reality is that he is more a long-term weakness (yes he is a great bail out guy due to his size/strength but he is not a good QB by any means and his only real success is as a mostly game manager; he has little potential to be more.. and what happens when he tries to be more?)

    this will probably be a bad team and probably should be ranked in the 2nd half of the league

    this is just absurd

  21. thekuech79 says: Jul 18, 2014 9:36 AM

    Haters gonna hate!!! Ballers gonna ball!

  22. thekuech79 says: Jul 18, 2014 9:37 AM

    What is so surprising coming off of a 12-4 season and first round bye in the play-offs?

  23. boomnutz says: Jul 18, 2014 9:38 AM

    Also, they may have the best front 7, but my money is on the St. Louis Rams. Drafting Donald was just the cherry on top. They’re also my bold prediction for a playoff spot (possibly at the expense of the Seahawks – as much as I hate the 49ers i think this is their year to win the division).

  24. pilot2011 says: Jul 18, 2014 9:43 AM

    Once again people will be surprised by the Panthers this year.

    I can’t even begin to stress how important Greg Olsen is to this team. He led the team in reception last year, will be a captain, and in all likelihood be a top 5 TE this season.

    The receivers are better than last years…
    Cotchery, Avant, and Benjamin are better than Smith, Lafell, and Ginn. (Smith is a HOFer and my favorite athlete of all time, but it was time to move on).

    The X-Factor for the Panthers in 2014 is the running game. For the first time since 2008, Carolina’s running game looks legit and healthy.

    Jonathan Stewart, Deangelo Williams, and Mike Tolbert will lead this team THIS YEAR to a wild card spot in the playoffs. (I put Stewart first for a reason. My pick for comeback player of the year.)

    Go Panthers. Keep Pounding.

  25. ncarolinabluze says: Jul 18, 2014 9:45 AM

    Top-3 defense makes them a contender. Drafted Kony Ealy to add to that stacked front 7. Godfrey was their best secondary player before he got hurt last year, he’ll move back to corner and be shutdown if healthy. Munnerlyn was statistically awful and Mitchell was nothing but a big hitter, good riddance to those weak links, cant believe that Steelers and Vikes spending on them. Roman Harper and Decoud just have to be serviceable on the back end, and should fit nicely.
    Media, find another story with the WR garbage, Panthers top receiver Olsen is back and the supporting cast is an upgrade. Cotchery is coming off a career year and Avant is solid, Benjamin is immediately a red zone target and will eventually be a beast. They were 29th in passing last year, so it cant get any worse.
    The backfield is their strength, gonna pound it, Stewart is finally healthy and you’ll see double trouble back with DeAngelo. Make it triple with bowling ball Tolbert.
    Also, they have an unmentioned and underrate special teams group.
    Keep doubting Carolina, just like prior to last year before they beat Pats, Niners, Saints, and gave Seattle one of their toughest games. Keep pounding.

  26. gotdressedinabooth says: Jul 18, 2014 9:47 AM

    People must really underestimate the value of a good front 7. Strong and only became stronger. I still think they should’ve addressed the secondary. The offense will perform much more efficiently than most surmise. Cam will play more confidently and show why Colin Kaepernick is a running quarterback and why he is a quarterback that can run, and this team will gel.

    Bottom line is defense. Ask Seattle.

    Panthers fan

  27. eaglesw00t says: Jul 18, 2014 9:48 AM

    What is so surprising coming off of a 12-4 season and first round bye in the play-offs?

    ————–

    The fact that you beat a bunch of chump teams in the regular season, and got smoked in your first playoff game.

    The only decent teams you beat in the regular season were San Fran (who smoked you 23-10 in the playoff game) and New Orleans, who you split with.

    Every other game was a chump schedule.

    Carolina is 9-7 at best this year. It is not a good team.

  28. raiderrob21 says: Jul 18, 2014 9:48 AM

    Seems way too high in my opinion

  29. gotdressedinabooth says: Jul 18, 2014 9:49 AM

    Correction: addressed the secondary like the meant it.

  30. politicallyincorrect says: Jul 18, 2014 9:50 AM

    people in the Carolinas should go back to being Redskins fans

    hello kitty

  31. flaccodelic says: Jul 18, 2014 9:51 AM

    Wow. This list is really making the Raven haters’ heads explode.
    Possibly the only value of a preseason power ranking that I’ve come across.

  32. ab420420 says: Jul 18, 2014 9:58 AM

    A WR crew that lost every single starter only to be replaced by a rook and a few journeymen has improved? Do you guys even football, bro

  33. footballguy5 says: Jul 18, 2014 10:01 AM

    I feel like the Panthers will have a bad year this year. No WRs and Cam is healing from the ankle

  34. gotdressedinabooth says: Jul 18, 2014 10:06 AM

    I dont understand the theory of a “chump schedule” bc I definitely thought you have to play who is on the schedule.. I could be wrong

  35. dallascowboysdishingthereal says: Jul 18, 2014 10:09 AM

    Following last year’s performance is going to be very difficult. I think they will miss Smith more than they realize too.

  36. northlandwi says: Jul 18, 2014 10:16 AM

    %^&%^#- This ranking makes all the rest invalid. #10 for a team with zero WR? I hate hate hate Chicago, but you cannot argue that they are a worse team than Carolina as these ratings suggest.

  37. tqaztec says: Jul 18, 2014 10:18 AM

    This is a bottom half of league team. Rivera will likely lose his job. It was a fluke season in 2013.

  38. boomnutz says: Jul 18, 2014 10:19 AM

    all the people that say we underestimate the impact of a front 7 or their running game should look at the offensive line, and ask themselves if they’re under estimating the impact of their offensive line? It’s atrocious. The RBs were all old anyway (in RB years) and now just another year older. Good luck. The rest of division improved, the Panthers got worse. Blowing a first round pick won’t help either. I’m not saying they’re bad, they’ll be like the Giants – great year last year, disappointing year this season, everyone writes them off next season, and boom they’re winning the division again. The media is reactive instead of proactive.

  39. junkmtb says: Jul 18, 2014 10:44 AM

    Pheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeew all these haters of my PANTHER TEAM!!!! Must be a lot of Saints fans commenting right about now!!!!

    See you in September chumps!

    LOL

  40. buzzbeaubank says: Jul 18, 2014 10:59 AM

    If the Ravens don’t show up as #9 this afternoon it’s really going to ruin some Yinzer weekends.

  41. eaglesw00t says: Jul 18, 2014 11:04 AM

    dont understand the theory of a “chump schedule” bc I definitely thought you have to play who is on the schedule.. I could be wrong

    —————

    Then you dont understand the NFL. And the fact that the Panthers wont be playing a chump schedule this year. And strength of schedule, and last place scheduling vs first place scheduling.

    Look at the first 10 weeks of the Panthers schedule and tell me they even have a shot of having a .500 record. No chance.

    Power rankings are about how good a team is. The Panthers are not a .500 team this season. And I would bet on that.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers – W
    Detroit Lions – L
    Pittsburgh Steelers – W
    Baltimore Ravens – L
    Chicago Bears – L
    Cincinnati Bengals – L
    Green Bay Packers – L
    Seattle Seahawks – L
    New Orleans Saints – L
    Philadelphia Eagles – L

    Looks like 2-8 to start the season to me. Maybe 3-7 at best.

  42. bcetour says: Jul 18, 2014 11:04 AM

    The Panthers are as overrated in these rankings as the Bucs are underrated. In other words, alot on both counts.

    You’re better than this PFT. Good lord, Carolina 10th.

  43. harrybucsfan says: Jul 18, 2014 11:23 AM

    I’m sorry Panther fans, but you have to be kidding me. #10??? Its not at all bc I am a Bucs fan. But when you don’t bring back ANY of last years WRs, NOT ONE, that is going to be a big problem for the passing game, don’t ya think? I mean, CAR is planning on starting Tiquan Underwood! Lets see, who did Tiquan play for last year (as a reserve) and was not asked back? I think it was that team that PFT ranked at #26. In addition, like the Bucs, the Panther’s Oline is a big question mark. Cam is good, but it will take a while to gel with his WRs – especially when he will be running for his life.

    PFT, this is just awful work. I will call it here: Panthers finish last in NFCS. Go ahead Panther fans – give me the big thumbs down! Just calling the obvious.

  44. jbcommonsense says: Jul 18, 2014 11:24 AM

    Great QB/DEF, but with the OL/WR problems the Panthers should be ranked lower, close to 13-16.

  45. flmike says: Jul 18, 2014 11:30 AM

    12-4 to 4-12 in one offseason…
    They will be lucky not to finish last in the NFCS.

  46. ncarolinabluze says: Jul 18, 2014 11:31 AM

    Panthers played with journeymen WRs and over-the-hill Steve Smith last year. They actually made Ted Ginn look like a football player, enough to sucker AZ into a 3 year contract. Their best receiver was Greg Olsen, and he’s back. Bringing in two proven veterans and a stud rookie is in no way a regression from the scraps they used to go 12-4.
    Panthers schedule was ranked toughest in the entire league going into last year, and all they did was put together impressive wins and get #2 seed in the loaded NFC.
    On D they upgraded the 2 weakest links, Munnerlyn and Mitchell, while adding Ealy. The D alone is worth a top-10 rank.

  47. eaglesw00t says: Jul 18, 2014 11:33 AM

    Quoting the poll thread,

    Too high 74.57% (1,736 votes)
    Just right 18.26% (425 votes)
    Too low 7.17% (167 votes)

    Looks like a lot of people think theyre overrated.

  48. handsofsteelhartofstone says: Jul 18, 2014 11:39 AM

    The Panthers will not score a point vs Pittsburgh. Bank on it. Steelers will once again be the number 1 defense in the league. You heard it here 1st

  49. politicallyincorrect says: Jul 18, 2014 11:45 AM

    this one is just silly…. demeans the entire rankings

    Panthers will most likely be in the bottom half of the league (AFC included) in terms of team quality

    and Cam is more a long-term weakness than a short-term strength…. how long will he be content to play game manager? with this years team he may try to do more.. and when he does he will go back to sucking… guy is mostly marketing with low skill set and not much real potential to ever be a legit starting nfl QB IMO

  50. ncarolinabluze says: Jul 18, 2014 12:13 PM

    Cam Newton broke Peyton Mannings record for passing yards in a QBs first 2 seasons. Not to mention what he does with his feet. We know what he is capable of. That debate is over.
    Maybe the Panthers should’ve satisfied everyone by blowing the budget on a big name FA WR like Mike Wallace or Greg Jennings or Danny Amendola. Because that worked out so well for other teams.

  51. teek77 says: Jul 18, 2014 12:17 PM

    A reminder to 49er fans, I believe the two teams broke even last year, winning on the other’s home field. The Seattle game was lost on a late offensive fumble when the Panthers were driving for another score. And, the Buffalo game was lost on a last second play because of a missed assignment on defense. With the exception of the offensive line, the whole team has been upgraded. The Power Ranking is legit.

  52. lanman11 says: Jul 18, 2014 12:17 PM

    That’s where I had them….I’m sure PFT will reverse my NE and Den spots but with the players NE gets back this year I think this is correct.

    1) Seattle
    2) San Francisco
    3) New England
    4) New Orleans
    5) Denver
    6) Green Bay
    7) Indianapolis
    8) Cincinnati
    9) Baltimore
    10) Carolina

  53. politicallyincorrect says: Jul 18, 2014 12:20 PM

    Cam was about to be benched at game 4 last year when team made him pure game manager… he/team did well but do not be fooled.. he is not a big time QB or even a long-term QB

    he is a good game manager because he does have elite extend play/bail out ability due to size… like Big Ben, but he does not have arm of a Big Ben… and he is not very fast (other than for size) like an RG3 (in fact he would lose to Luck in a race)

    my question.. when he stops being game manager and tries to be more, what happens? Wish Panthers having so little talent, we should see this year.

    don’t be fooled here… I was a Cam fan until the BCS champ game (he sucked big time and I thought was 21pts to other team)

  54. touchdowndances says: Jul 18, 2014 12:31 PM

    “I’d really like to see the logic behind putting the Ravens over the Panthers. Then again, logic is hardly used in Power Rankings anyway…”

    It’s simple – the Ravens did more in the offseason, and the teams weren’t too far apart to begin with.

    We will find out pretty quickly how they compare…..week 4.

  55. ausernamethatisavailable says: Jul 18, 2014 12:47 PM

    Too high of a ranking for them. They are an above average team that eeked out several games last year and their roster will be worse this year. And keuchly will have to get called for PI a few times this year. He got away with murder in pass d last year.

  56. orthomarine says: Jul 18, 2014 12:49 PM

    AHHHHHH HAHAHAHAHAHAHA

  57. Eutaw's Finest says: Jul 18, 2014 12:56 PM

    peefrimgar says:
    Jul 18, 2014 9:06 AM
    I’d really like to see the logic behind putting the Ravens over the Panthers. Then again, logic is hardly used in Power Rankings anyway…
    _________________________________
    Very simple. The biggest difference you would believe is offensively right? A QB is only as good as his receivers/O line. Cam has neither. The Ravens HAD no O Line but bring back pro bowl guard Yanda, upgraded the center position with Zuttah, have a healthy KO coming back at right guard (missed most of ’13), and a full season of Monroe at left tackle. The only question is right tackle with Wagner. As for the receivers, you tell me which group is better:

    BAL- Steve Smith, Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones, Dennis Pitta, Owen Daniels (Marlon Brown quietly had 500yds 7TDs last year too)

    CAR- Jericho Cotchery, Jason Avant, Kelvin Benjamin (unproven), Greg Olsen, Ed Dickson.

    Based on 2014 rosters the Ravens top 3 wideouts (Smith,Smith, Brown) combine for 2,500yds 15 TDs last year, while the Panthers top 3 (Avant, Cotchery, Benjamin- NO NFL EXPERIENCE) combine for 1050yds 12TDs. I rest my case.

  58. tavisteelersfan says: Jul 18, 2014 1:04 PM

    In my opinion, no team lost as much talent as the Panthers after the season ended. How they stay at ten is very hard to understand.
    I loved the team last year, rooted for them. But I see them falling way behind this year. Atlanta is better. New Orleans is at least as good. Tampa is a real threat.
    The Panthers are an 18 or 19 I am afraid.

  59. largent80100 says: Jul 18, 2014 1:07 PM

    Now it’s all about Cam and the front 7.

    The pass rush must be even better than last season with that secondary, and those receivers, ew.

    Newton can really prevent them to fall a lot, but it seems like they will pull a Falcons/Texans/Redskins this season, all of them playoff teams in 2012 that couldn’t win more than 5 games in 2013.

  60. bbk1000 says: Jul 18, 2014 1:19 PM

    “Yes we Cam!”

    Uh…..”no you Cam’t”…..

  61. wiztopher says: Jul 18, 2014 1:19 PM

    Good d front and QB. That’s it. Def not #10.

  62. thefiesty1 says: Jul 18, 2014 1:23 PM

    Carolina dreamin’

  63. Mr. Jones says: Jul 18, 2014 1:55 PM

    I can’t understand how the PFT team came up with these rankings. Carolina has no WR or good run game and they are top 10. I bet you guys will have the Broncos as the number 1 team and Super Bowl winners over the Packers.

  64. pantherpro says: Jul 18, 2014 2:10 PM

    Carolina tea party rednecks don’t deserve Cam

  65. brs3 says: Jul 18, 2014 2:14 PM

    eaglesw00t says: Jul 18, 2014 9:48 AM

    What is so surprising coming off of a 12-4 season and first round bye in the play-offs?

    ————–

    The fact that you beat a bunch of chump teams in the regular season, and got smoked in your first playoff game.

    The only decent teams you beat in the regular season were San Fran (who smoked you 23-10 in the playoff game) and New Orleans, who you split with.

    Every other game was a chump schedule.

    Carolina is 9-7 at best this year. It is not a good team.

    ——

    I find it funny that an Eagles fan is talking about a chump schedule.

    The Eagles had the 3 easiest schedule in the league and they could only manage 10 wins. If any team is going to regress you might want to start there.

  66. kopka182 says: Jul 18, 2014 2:25 PM

    In 2012 the Panthers lost 7 games decided by 7 points or less. They finished with a 7-9 record. Last year they won those close games and finished 12-4. This team is good and has a lot of good young talent. The front 7 makes their secondary better. Mike Mitchell was a nobody on Oakland before coming to the Panthers. 49ers, Patriots, Dolphins, Saints, Falcons, Jets, And Rams all lost to this team. This is a very good young team on the rise starting with a very smart front office. No one is expecting a 12-4 finish but 9 or 10 wins is very likely.

  67. truths4all says: Jul 18, 2014 2:47 PM

    The huge holes found on the offensive line, defensive secondary, and wide receiver spells 5-11 season. When fans and PFT easily recognize these major weaknesses, what would anyone suppose the teams on the schedule are doing to exploit these major weaknesses?

    Even great NFL QBs need decent receivers to win games. And without a decent offensive line, how does newton avoid being beat up and ineffective just as the Steelers found out when they when cheap and stupid on their offensive line that simply could not protect Big Ben?

    Look for a down year and a return to Carolina’s mediocre track record as it is very unlikely for the WRs and OL to all deliver career years during the same season. If they do, you know the drug testing guys will be sicced on them because of behind the scenes complaints by the other teams.

  68. bnwillard says: Jul 18, 2014 3:01 PM

    Pft has done nothing bit run this solid team doen the road, based solely on the release of an aging, semi-productive, belligerent receiver. They (along with all the other sports media) will have to apolgize by Halloween.

    Carolina is a solid team, period.

  69. seahawkfanfrom1970s says: Jul 18, 2014 3:26 PM

    Panthers are one of the physical NFC teams that could just as well have beaten the Broncos as my team.

    Regardless of the differences we all have about where our team ranks, there’s one thing we can ALL agree on: The Vikings are a laughable franchise.

  70. sbc85 says: Jul 18, 2014 4:38 PM

    ncarolinabluze says: Jul 18, 2014 11:31 AM
    Panthers played with journeymen WRs and over-the-hill Steve Smith last year. They actually made Ted Ginn look like a football player, enough to sucker AZ into a 3 year contract. Their best receiver was Greg Olsen, and he’s back. Bringing in two proven veterans and a stud rookie is in no way a regression from the scraps they used to go 12-4.
    Panthers schedule was ranked toughest in the entire league going into last year, and all they did was put together impressive wins and get #2 seed in the loaded NFC.
    On D they upgraded the 2 weakest links, Munnerlyn and Mitchell, while adding Ealy. The D alone is worth a top-10 rank.

    —-

    The Panthers were the 26th ranked offense in yards per game last year — the WRs you had then were definitely not setting the league on fire. The issue this year is the replacements they signed aren’t likely to set the league on fire either and then you have a rookie who may or may not make any kind of impact his first year. It’s one big question mark. Could work out OK, could be one big dumpster fire. I guess we’ll find out.

    How was the secondary upgraded? Serious question. The main moves I can recall off the top of my head are signing Thomas DeCoud and Roman Harper, who are unwanted castoffs from other NFC South teams. Falcons and Saints fans were happy when CAR signed those two.

  71. pampabear says: Jul 18, 2014 5:53 PM

    Waaaay over-rated!

  72. drunkwino says: Jul 18, 2014 8:22 PM

    Pheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeew all these haters of my PANTHER TEAM!!!! Must be a lot of Saints fans commenting right about now!!!!
    ———————-
    Hate to burst your delusions of grandeur, but Saints fans are too into an actual real rivalry with Atlanta to care about you or your team. If anything, the other three NFCS teams fanbases consider you the bed wetting second cousin that mom forces you to play with.

  73. bigdpantherfan says: Jul 19, 2014 12:43 AM

    most of you would not know a good football team if it slapped you in the face. First thing to do is stop listening to the so called experts at ESPN and learn to think for yourself. Next buy a clue and see that wherever Coach Rivera has been he has produced a top 3 defense when given time. And as for your great concern about the wide receivers, how did any of them become good? They were given a chance to play. And to that ignorant politicallyincorrect, you my friend is not only incorrect, but just plain STUPID.

  74. bkg63 says: Jul 19, 2014 2:25 AM

    What is this Darrin Gantt?
    You’re being overly generous towards the Panthers. The Eagles should be ranked #10 and the Panthers ranked #13.

    Watch the Panthers go 7-9 this season and the Eagles go 11-5.

  75. hess97 says: Jul 19, 2014 3:20 AM

    Burfict, Bowman, David, Alonso, Dansby. All > Kuechly last year, even with the one big game he had against the Ain’ts.
    While Davis was underrated, Kuechly was waay overrated. Watch him posteriors on both Niners touchdowns in the playoffs.

  76. hess97 says: Jul 19, 2014 3:21 AM

    *get posterized.

  77. bigdpantherfan says: Jul 19, 2014 9:28 AM

    People say the Panthers got lucky last year, the Eagles are the ones who were lucky. Nick Foles will not have as good a year, but they can still go 11-5 because the rest of that division is garbbage

  78. bigdpantherfan says: Jul 19, 2014 9:42 AM

    One more thing, the Panthers have the best team in the division, I said team. Here’s way; if you take away the best player from each unit, you will see who the best team is. Take away the best QB, the best D lineman, the best LB, and so on and you will see the Panthers are THE BEST TEAM in the NFCS.

  79. ncarolinabluze says: Jul 19, 2014 11:14 AM

    sbc85, you’re giving us a headache.
    The main takeaway for casual observers is that the Panthers cap situation was even worse last year, yet they filled holes with cast-offs and rejects to go 12-4. Their passing game was 29th, yet they got the #2 seed in a stacked NFC. Greg Olsen was their best receiver, and he’s coming back. You cant honestly project the WR/TE contribution to the team to be worse than it already was. It was bad, and they overhauled it. The point being made is that the WR position was a dumpster fire last year and they did ok.
    Meanwhile J Stewart, the best of their backfield, finally looks healthy, and they already have Williams and Tolbert.
    The interesting thing will be watching those spares (mitchell, munnerlyn, ginn, lafell to name a few) perform on other teams in 2014.
    As for the secondary, they got rid of Munnerlyn (lol Vikings contract), who was mostly awful but made a few big plays thanks to the front 7. Mitchell was bad too, other than some big hits (and big penalties). Both are gone, replaced with solid vets (Harper, Decoud, Cason) who will love being on that D. The biggest factor is Charles Godfrey, was the best player in the secondary the past 3 years, if he is healthy as expected he will move corner and be shutdown.
    The big legitimate knock on the Panthers is O-line, outside of a Pro Bowl center they are weak there.
    #keeppounding

  80. chrisco4bucs says: Jul 19, 2014 11:54 AM

    These power rankings are turrible, the kittens will bring up the rear in the NFCS…….GO BUCS

  81. politicallyincorrect says: Jul 19, 2014 6:20 PM

    this is by far the funniest one..

    Panthers will suck

  82. cortezelwood says: Jul 19, 2014 11:01 PM

    Make sure you haters and doubters remember the things you said when the Panthers win the division again. This team is better at receiver as a group than they were last year. Falcons are healthy so they will be better, but their offensive line is still a big question mark and their pass rush is still weak.

    Tampa’s season depends on McCown. He plays well then the team will. He does not have the same weapons he had in Chicago. And he has never had a year like he did last season. Wanna talk about fluke seasons!

    As good as the front 7 made Carolina’s secondary last year this year the group has improved and the front seven will only make them better.

    Carolina does best when they fly under the radar. Please please underestimate this team. I cant wait to tell all you doubters how foolish you looked making outlandish and ridiculous uninformed statements. How about reading about and studying the team before breaking them down

  83. tgcpanthersfan says: Jul 20, 2014 2:45 AM

    lol haters will hate. im sorry how many games did smith take over last year? NONE he was almost shut down in most of them and the team locked up the division without him. people are now calling Ginn a loss what was he called last year? a camp body at best. no WRs this year? im sorry there were no WRs last year either. and as my fellow panthers fans would say Decoud, Harper, Cason> Cap, Mitchell and Mikell. also didn’t a well respected HOF OT praise one Nate Chandler. simple as last year its not september so these rankings dont mean crap.

    but y’all getting your panties in a wad over the rankings is priceless

  84. pantherpablo says: Jul 20, 2014 3:09 AM

    The best 3 teams in the league last year were Seattle, San Fran and Carolina. All NFC teams, all elite defenses. The analysis of this ranking/article was fair, but the Panthers’ elite defense will carry them to another 10+ win season and playoff berth.

    The thing I disagree with with most of the national outlook on the Panthers in 2014 is the sky-is-falling attitude about the WR corps and offense. Gross is a big loss, but Cam is the type of mobile QB that won’t be as affected by OL breakdowns as a statue like Brady, Rivers or Manning. He’ll get knocked down a few times, sure, but he can deal with a shaky offensive line better than a traditional pocket passer.

    But the wide receiver talk is unbelievably overblown. Steve Smith is probably the best Panther of all time. But he was past his prime last year. Despite him coming up with some huge 3rd and 4th down conversions, he was a shell of his former self. But beyond that, people want to act like Brandon Lafell and Ted Ginn were so much better than Cotchery and Avant? Seriously? Benjamin is the question mark, but he’s a rookie and will experience some growing pains. But you can’t teach 6’5″ 230. He will make some plays.

    The Panthers probably won’t have a stretch where they win 11 of 12 games, but I doubt they have a stretch where they lose 3 of 4 either. They grew a lot as a cohesive team last year. They (players and coaches) learned how to win last year. I expect more of the same in 2014.

  85. castaljuan says: Jul 20, 2014 1:02 PM

    I think everyone forgets that the Panthers were 29th in passing last season. Nowhere to go but up.

  86. jgedgar70 says: Jul 22, 2014 3:57 PM

    castaljuan says:
    Jul 20, 2014 1:02 PM
    I think everyone forgets that the Panthers were 29th in passing last season. Nowhere to go but up.
    _____
    State facts all you want, but PFT writers and commenters will continue to ignore them.

    Every Panthers article on this site reads like the Panthers had Stallworth, Swann and Rice as WRs last year, let them all go, and replaced them with practice squad players. The WRs in 2013 contributed very little. The #1 pick has enormous potential. The 2 vets were not spectacular, but were solid, but this site continues to insist they are garbage. Ask Big Ben how much of a load of garbage Cotchery was last year. He’ll laugh at you and remind you of all the TD passes he caught. Avant does not suck. He played on a team with the Michael Vick Circus, and with DeSean Jackson, who makes very big plays and has a very big mouth. So of course no one knows who Avant is. That does not mean he can’t play.

    These 3 will easily produce more than the Smith-Ginn-LaFell group. EASILY!

    Yes, the O-line and secondary depth are legit concerns. With those concerns, I think a ranking of 10 is reasonable.

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