The Carolina Panthers finished the 2018 season with a respectable seven wins. However, when you dig deeper into that tally of seven wins, you realize the problem that struck the Panthers.
After starting with six wins from their first eight games, the Panthers hit a wall after losing to the Steelers on Thursday Night Football. Including that contest, the Panthers lost seven of their last eight, finishing below 500. While part of that drop off was due to nagging injuries with star quarterback Cam Newton, the Panthers were playing slightly over their heads through the first eight weeks. The Panthers were average by many metrics including scoring defense, scoring offense, yards allowed, and their passing stats.
With a heavily criticized quarterback running the show, the Panthers have been subject to a variety of hate throughout Cam Newton’s career. Here is a look at the validity of said criticism.
#1: Cam Newton is a below-average quarterback.
Throughout Newton’s career, he has made three Pro Bowls and was first-team All-Pro in 2015. In that 2015 season, Newton accounted for 45 total touchdowns and won league MVP, helping the Panthers to a 15-win regular season and an appearance in the Super Bowl. Outside of 2015, Newton has been fairly pedestrian. In his eight seasons in the NFL, Newton played a minimum of 14 games in each one.
Newton has thrown for 20 or more touchdowns in five of eight seasons, a respectable number considering the number of rushes that Newton has had in his career. Factoring in rushing, Newton has added 4,800 yards and 58 touchdowns to his career tally. A major criticism of Newton is that he only has one career 4,000-yard passing season. However, if you include Newton’s productivity on the ground, Newton averages 4,300 total yards per 16 games, a figure which nullifies the criticism that Newton doesn’t produce yards for the offense.
In addition to that, if you add his 58 rushing touchdowns to his 182 passing touchdowns, his touchdown to interception ratio becomes more visually appealing as it goes from under two touchdowns per interception to over two touchdowns per interception. In 2018, Newton posted a career-high in completion percentage, his second-highest yards per game mark, and a touchdown percentage which was the second-highest of his career. Moving into 2019 Newton should look to be a good quarterback once again.
#2: Christian McCaffrey is only a receiver.
After one season in the NFL, one could critique McCaffrey and claim that he was only a receiver playing running back. However, in 2018, McCaffrey demoted that view to the shadow realm. In 2018, McCaffrey registered almost 1,100 yards on the ground, compiling an average of 5 yards per carry. By any measure, those figures are elite in the NFL. And when you factor in McCaffrey’s receiving stats: 107 catches for 867 yards and six touchdowns, McCaffrey transforms into a top-five running back in the NFL. It is quite unfair to call McCaffrey just a receiver when he has been able to produce almost 1,500 rushing yards on just 336 carries, averaging over 4.5 yards per attempt.
#3: The Panthers are inconsistent.
Undoubtedly, the most consistent criticism of the Panthers relates to their inconsistent ability to win games. Since their inaugural season in 1995, the Panthers have never posted back-to-back winning seasons. The Panthers have only made back-to-back playoff appearances during three years between 2013 and 2015.
Despite some excellent highs throughout their history as a franchise, including three 12-win seasons, one 15-win season, and a pair of Super Bowl appearances, the Panthers have never shown the ability to produce good seasons consistently. Just since 2013, the Panthers win totals have yo-yoed from 12 to seven to 15 to six to 11 and back to seven.
In their entire history as a franchise, the Panthers have only ended back-to-back seasons within one win of each other on three occasions. After seven wins in 2018, the Panthers will look to have similar seasons to the 2015, 2013, 2008, 2005, 2003, and 1996 Panthers who won double-digit games after finishing a season with just seven wins. The Panthers went to the Super Bowl in two of those seasons and added a conference championship appearance in 2005.
Moving into the 2019 season, the Panthers will look to, once again, return to the playoffs. The defense is stacked with recent acquisitions of Tre Boston and Gerald McCoy fueling a unit which already had Kawann Short, Luke Kuechly, and Donte Jackson. Moving forward, the Panthers should have an effective offense with the likes of McCaffrey, DJ Moore, and Curtis Samuel running the show.
Verdict: 9 wins, missed playoffs
Was with you til the very last sentence. This is a team that, if Cam Newton stays healthy, has a floor of 10-6.