The Carolina Panthers overcame a horrid 3-8-1 start to win the NFC South with an overall record of 7-8-1. Clearly the Panthers benefited from playing in a bad division, but they did back it up in the playoffs with a 27-16 win at home over the Arizona Cardinals, before eventually losing on the road to the Seattle Seahawks 17-31.

By winning the NFC South in 2014, Carolina became the first team in the division to win back-to-back titles. They will look to make it 3 straight in 2015. In order for that to happen they will likely need to get more out of their offense, as their defense should once again be one of the elite units in the league.

Last Season
NFC South
ATS Record
Home ATS
Road ATS
Offense Rank
Defense Rank
Turnover Margin
Points For
Points Against
2015 Roster Changes
Draft Picks
Shaq Thompson (OLB), Devin Funchess (WR), Daryl Williams (OG), David Mayo (LB), Cameron Artis-Payne (RB)
Charles Tillman (CB), Michael Oher (OT), Jonathan Martin (OT), Kurt Coleman (DB), Jarrett Boykin (WR), Tedd Ginn (WR), Jason Trusnik (MLB)
 Greg Hardy (DE), DeAngelo Williams (RB), Byron Bell (OT), Chase Blackburn (OLB), Joe Webb (QB), Garry Williams (OT), James Dockery (DB), Mike McNeill (TE)
2015 Schedule & Odds
Week Opponent Spread Win Chance
1 @ Jaguars -4 0.66
2 Texans -2.5 0.55
3 Saints -3 0.59
4 @ Buccaneers -2.5 0.55
6 @ Seahawks +8 0.21
7 Eagles PK 0.50
8 Colts +1 0.49
9 Packers PK 0.50
10 @ Titans -2.5 0.55
11 Redskins -5 0.68
12 @ Cowboys +4.5 0.33
13 @ Saints +2 0.47
14 Falcons -3.5 0.64
15 @ Giants +2 0.47
16 @ Falcons +1 0.49
17 Buccaneers -6.5 0.72
Estimated Wins: 8.40
Roster Breakdown

The Panthers ranked just 16th in total offense (346.7 ypg) and 19th in scoring (21.2 ppg). While not great, it was better than some were expecting given the shape of the offensive line and lack of proven talent at wide receiver going into the season.

Heading into what will be Cam Newton’s 5th year in the league, Carolina has once again has pieced together a questionable offense line to protect their prized signal caller. The Panthers parted ways with starting left tackle Byron Bell and replaced him with Michael Oher, who was less than impressive at right tackle last year with the Tennessee Titans. There’s also concerns over the ability of right tackle Mike Remmers being able to perform at a high enough level. On the bright side, the interior of the line looks strong behind center Ryan Kalil and guards Trai Turner and Andrew Norwell.

Newton battled injuries all season long which hampered his overall numbers. While he remains one of the elite dual-threat options in the NFL, he can struggle with his accuracy. Newton has thrown at least 12 interceptions in each of his first 4 years and has seen his passing yards drop each year since throwing for 4,051 as a rookie back in 2011 (3,127 in 2014).

Carolina did make an effort to provide Newton some more weapons in the passing game. Last year almost all the targets went to either rookie wide out Kelvin Benjamin or star tight end Greg Olson. The two combined for 157 receptions and each finished the year with exactly 1,008 yards. The Panthers brought back deep-threat Tedd Ginn Jr. in free agency, added Jarrett Boykin from Green Bay and used their 2nd round pick on Michigan’s Devin Funchess.

The Panthers parted ways with long-time running back DeAngelo Williams, opening up the door for Jonathan Stewart to be the feature back. Stewart was an essential part to Carolina’s late season surge, as he totaled 486 of his team-high 809 rushing yards in the final 5 games. The Panthers still have talented fullback Mike Tolbert for short-yardage situations and used a 5th round pick on Auburn’s Cameron Artis-Payne.

It’s no secret that the strength of this team is their defense, though the overall numbers weren’t great in 2014. While Carolina finished 10th in total defense (339.8 ypg), they were a mere 21st in scoring defense (23.4 ppg). On the bright side, they finished the year strong on this side of the ball, allowing just 43 points over their final 4 games of the regular season.

One of the things that jump-started the defense late in the year, was the decision to add in corner Bene Benwikere and safety Tre Boston into the starting lineup. These two formed a potent defensive backfield down the stretch with emerging star corner Josh Morgan and veteran safety Roman Harper. Benwikere and Morgan are expected to start, but they also added in veteran Charles Tillman for insurance, as well as his leadership inside the locker room.

Despite the fact that Greg Hardy missed 15 games, the Panthers managed to rack up 40 sacks (T-13th). A pretty impressive accomplishment given Hardy was coming off a 15-sack performance in 2013. Hardy wasn’t re-signed in the offseason and will essentially have the same key contributors up front as last year in talented young defensive tackles Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short, as well veteran defensive end Charles Johnson.

At linebacker, the Panthers have one of, if not, the best starting duo in the NFL in Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis. They do return starting weak-side linebacker A.J. Klein, but he figures to give way to 1st round pick Shaq Thompson.

Future Odds
Regular Season Win Total
to Win the NFC
to Win Super Bowl L
17 to 1
38 to 1
Odds Courtesty of 5Dimes

Heading into the 2015 season, I believe the NFC South is a 2-team race between the Panthers and Saints. You could argue that Carolina has the tougher schedule of the two, as they draw Green Bay and Seattle from the NFC North and NFC West, while the Saints take on Detroit and Arizona. The Saints are without question the better offensive team, while the Panthers are hands down the better defensive team.

While I wouldn’t be surprised if the Panthers won the division for a 3rd straight year, I’m going to give the slight edge to the Saints, who have the better quarterback and should be much-improved defensively. The NFC South does draw favorable cross-conference matchups against the AFC South, which will give the Panthers a shot at competing for 1 of the 2 Wild Card spots.

I have Carolina ending the year at 9-7, which has them just barely eclipsing their win total of 8.5. I know this team is just two years removed from going 12-4, but I don’t think the ceiling is that high in 2015. In fact, I think there’s a better chance the Panthers regress to below .500 than contend for one of the top spots in the NFC.

NFC West Finish
Division Record
Overall Record
Win Total Prediction
OVER 8.5
Panthers 10-Year Recap
Year W L Playoffs Coach Win Total
2014 7 8 Lost Div Rivera 8
2013 12 4 Lost Div Rivera 7.5
2012 7 9 Rivera 7.5
2011 6 10 Rivera 4.5
2010 2 14 Fox 7
2009 8 8 Fox 8.5
2008 12 4 Lost Div Fox 7.5
2007 7 9 Fox 9
2006 8 8 Fox 10
2005 11 5 Lost Conf Fox 9

Brian Beversluis

Brian Beversluis

OVER 8.5 Wins – I would say I believe 8.5 isn’t a bad guess. My ballpark is 11 wins, since the NFC South is a competitive group typically. I don’t see the division being as bad as it was last year and would think the team will drop at least two losses to NFCS opponents. The Panthers also face the Packers, Seahawks, Cowboys, Colts, Texans, and Eagles in the middle of the season. I could see three of those being losses as well.

However, being repeat NFCS Champs and with very little roster or coaching turnover compared to the rest of the division, paired with a stout defense that improved its personnel, I think the team wins the NFC South once again.

Mitchell Apple

Mitchell Apple

OVER 8.5 – The 2014 Panthers were expected to struggle after completely remaking the Offensive Line, Wide Receiver Core & Secondary while also dealing with the sudden departure of Pro Bowl Defensive End Greg Hardy. Headed into 2015 the roster remains intact with a handful of key veteran additions including Charles Tillman, Ted Ginn and Michael Oher. Don’t sleep on the 2015 draft class either after the remarkable drafting of Panthers General Manager Dave Gettleman, who’s short but impressive record stands for itself.

The Panthers will also be aided by one of the easiest schedules in the NFL which includes the Jaguars in week 1 as well as the Titans, Redskins and the other teams of the unspectacular NFC South. A 10+ win season is widely expected by both myself and the Panthers community. Going 4 – 2 in the division and beating the previously mentioned bottom dwellers, I view a 7 – 9 season as the absolute worst record possible.

Tony Dunn

Tony Dunn

OVER 8.5 Wins – I don’t see any reason to take the under here. Carolina may have squeezed into the playoffs last season nearly by default and with a losing record, but the Panthers didn’t look outmatched when they got there. The didn’t look outmatched entirely against Seattle after dominating an injury decimated Cardinals team in the opening round. Carolina has only gotten better since. A solid enough draft supporting last year’s rookie class, which started seven in the playoffs. The organizational health has improved also by committing long term to Cam Newton and prioritizing the same for Luke Kuechly. Carolina is trending and has a realistic opportunity to start out 4-0 against a soft starting schedule. With 10 games against sub .500 teams last season, Carolina needs only to survive a tough four game stretch, which includes the Seahawks, Eagles, Colts, and Packers, to be solidly positioned to surpass the 8.5 game line. Give me the over.

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