2021 Carolina Panthers Predictions with Odds to Win Super Bowl
The Carolina Panthers are just five seasons removed from a Super Bowl appearance where they lost 24-10 to the Denver Broncos. In that game, they had the better team but couldn’t get past the Broncos’ ferocious defense. That was ultimately Cam Newton’s undoing in Carolina as the QB was ridiculed for not giving enough effort. Since then, the Panthers have just one playoff berth to show for – a Wild Card Round loss to the Saints after finishing with an 11-5 record. They finished 5-11 the last two seasons. However, with a second-year coach and reinforcements on the offensive side of the ball, the Panthers should be competitive this year.
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The Panthers will open the regular season on September 12 with a home date against the New York Jets before welcoming in the New Orleans Saints the following week. From there, the Panthers head to the road for two games in Texas, one vs Houston and one against Dallas. From there, the Panthers return home to take on the Eagles and Vikings, and they have a bit of a grueling schedule to start the year off. As of writing this, the Panthers are +5000 to win the Super Bowl, +2200 to win the NFC and +700 to win the NFC South.
Let’s take a look at what to expect from each unit heading into this season.
Key Players: Sam Darnold, Christian McCaffrey, Robby Anderson
You have to feel a little bit sorry for Sam Darnold. He was drafted into an organization that was in complete shambles both in terms of on-field product and behind-the-scenes. The Jets never gave Darnold any sort of talent to work with, and the coaching carousel also did more harm than good. Now, Darnold gets to go play for a solid coach in Matt Rhule, and he will have pieces surrounding him that will make his life much easier. Through three seasons – two filled with injuries, Darnold has only topped the 3,000-yard passing mark just once in his career. He’s finished with no less than 11 interceptions in each of his three years and has taken 30+ sacks. Those numbers don’t exactly instill confidence in the Panthers fan base, but if you look at what Darnold is as a player, he is a good quarterback. And given a good offensive line and real receivers and a running back like CMC, you have to think the upside Darnold has is tremendous for this season. I’m not saying he’s going to be QB1 in the fantasy world, but he’s going to put up much better numbers this year than many would like to think.
The return of McCaffrey to full strength will also help the Panthers cause as the fantasy stud played in only three games last season before suffering a season-ending injury. If any of the offseason videos of CMC getting in work are any indication, he will be back and stronger than ever and should be able to continue his dominance both out of the backfield as a runner and as a pass-catcher. Defenses will now have to stay honest and respect both run and pass when CMC is in the game, and that will allow Darnold an extra second or so to make the right reads.
As for the receiving corps, Sam Darnold gets reunited with Robby Anderson, and that will help the Panthers be able to push the ball downfield when they need to. Anderson had a solid season last year and should be finding the endzone more this season. Opposite him is DJ Moore, who also had a good season last year – for what it’s worth – and they will give Darnold the reliability he needs when throwing the ball.
Defense & Special Teams
Key Players: Shaq Thompson, Haason Reddick
Defensively, the Panthers were a mediocre bunch as they ranked 18th in the league in terms of points per game, 20th in terms of stopping the run and 18th when it came to defending the pass. Injuries play a huge part in that. And with a healthier defense and playing in a division that has gotten worse on paper, the Panthers should be able to better those numbers and win a few more ball games down the stretch. The loss of Luke Keuchly to retirement is going to hurt. However, the defense has a good mix of veterans that will be able to steady the unit and get them playing good defensive football. As for special teams, Joey Slye will once again be relied upon for kicking field goals and extra points, and he’s become a very reliable option for the Panthers in the opposition half.
There are a lot of reasons to be optimistic about the Panthers’ chances at getting back to .500 and perhaps bettering that. They have a good quarterback that’s looking for a bounce-back season. They return their best player in CMC, who missed last year through injury. They have a good receiving duo that will give said quarterback options and reliability, and the defense can’t be any worse than it played last season. The division got worse, and so a wild card spot is likely the goal for the Panthers. It’ll be tough, but they won’t be out of the running by November.
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