The 2018 season began with a lot of promise for the Carolina Panthers. The club won three of its first four games and followed that stretch up with another 3-1 run. After nine weeks of the regular season, the Panthers had a record of 6-2.
It was looking like the team would be a factor in both the NFC South and the conference as a whole. Then the bottom fell out in unceremonious fashion. In Week 10, the club headed to Pittsburgh for a Thursday night affair with the Steelers.
It didn’t go well. Carolina was destroyed to the tune of 52-21. Unfortunately, that thrashing didn’t serve as any kind of wake-up call. The Panthers would go on to lose their next six games as well. The bleeding was finally stopped in Week 17 with a victory over the New Orleans Saints.
So exactly how did the season go so far down south for a squad which started off the year at 6-2? Much of the scuttlebutt has centered around Cam Newton not being right over the second half of the year. He underwent shoulder surgery in the offseason, so there’s obviously something to that.
Why wasn’t the franchise signal caller shut down sooner? Additionally, there were plenty of other holes on the 2018 Panthers, namely on defense. A team does not lose seven games in a row when everything is going along swimmingly.
Looking ahead to this season, expectations are tempered for the Panthers. The club is behind both the Saints and the Atlanta Falcons in terms of odds to win the NFC South. Newton is expected to be a full participant in camp, but many observers are taking a wait and see approach.
So are the Panthers poised to be a bounce-back team in 2019 or will they take another step backwards? Let’s take a closer look and find out. We’ll begin by examining the season that was in Carolina.
Carolina Panthers 2018 Season Recap
Record: 7-9 | Standings: 3-NFC South | Playoffs: N/A
The Panthers started off the year at home with a visit from the Dallas Cowboys. Defense ruled the day as Carolina held a 10-0 lead at the half before hanging on for a 16-8 win. The club hit the road the following week for more of an offensive game with the Atlanta Falcons, falling by a score of 31-24.
It was back to the win column in Week 3 with a 31-21 victory over the visiting Cincinnati Bengals. The Panthers had an early bye in Week 4, and they managed to come back out of the gate strong with a 33-31 home victory over the New York Giants.
Carolina continued to play well over the next four weeks. They went 3-1 over that span, closing it out with back-to-back double-digit home victories over the Baltimore Ravens and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. At 6-2, the Panthers were resembling a team that would remain in the playoff chase all year.
The air came out of the balloon quickly. Carolina would lose its next seven games in a row. The excruciating stretch began with the 31-point road pounding at the hands of the Steelers, and it wrapped up with a 14-point home defeat to the Falcons.
In between were five relatively close defeats, with the Panthers falling by seven points or less in each of them. The club closed out the year with a road win over the Saints, but the hosts already had their playoff fates wrapped up.
Carolina finished the year tied for 14th in the league in points for per game. Newton had his moments, but his production tailed off before he was finally shut down towards the end of the year. The defense wound up ranked 19th for fewest points allowed per contest.
Carolina Panthers Offseason Moves
The team would respond to the late-season swoon with in-season changes to the defensive coaching staff. Ron Rivera returns for his ninth season patrolling the sidelines. Norv Turner is on board as offensive coordinator. Curiously, the team is going back to the well with Eric Washington at DC.
The Panthers signed C Matt Paradis, a player who should immediately help to shore up the offensive line and keep Newton upright. The club re-signed S Eric Reid and OT Daryl Williams and parted ways with OT Matt Kalil, among other moves.
Carolina selected LB Brian Burns out of Florida State in round one. He’s a pass-rushing prospect who the team has high hopes for. Ole Miss OT Greg Little was the choice in round two. Later round selections included West Virginia QB Will Grier and Alabama LB Christian Miller.
We’ll see if Newton can bounce back now that his shoulder injury has been tended to. D.J. Moore, Curtis Samuel, and Jarius Wright are currently penciled in atop the wideout depth chart. Names to watch in camp include Chris Hogan and Torrey Smith.
Greg Olsen will remain a top target at tight end, while it looks like Christian McCaffrey will be in line for as many targets and touches as he can handle once again. The team has made some tweaks on defense, but it all comes down to whether or not Washington can put together a better scheme this time around.
Carolina Panthers 2019 Schedule
|1||Sun. Sept.8||vs. Los Angeles Rams||1:00 PM||FOX|
|2||Thu. Sept.12||vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers||8:20 PM||NFL|
|3||Sun. Sept.22||at Arizona Cardinals||4:05 PM||FOX|
|4||Sun. Sept.29||at Houston Texans||1:00 PM||FOX|
|5||Sun. Oct.6||vs. Jacksonville Jaguars||1:00 PM||CBS|
|6||Sun. Oct.13||vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers*||9:30 AM||NFL|
|8||Sun. Oct.27||at San Francisco 49ers||4:05 PM||FOX|
|9||Sun. Nov.3||vs. Tennessee Titans||1:00 PM||CBS|
|10||Sun. Nov.10||at Green Bay Packers||1:00 PM||FOX|
|11||Sun. Nov.17||vs. Atlanta Falcons||1:00 PM||FOX|
|12||Sun. Nov.24||at New Orleans Saints||1:00 PM||FOX|
|13||Sun. Dec.1||vs. Washington Redskins||1:00 PM||CBS|
|14||Sun. Dec.8||at Atlanta Falcons||1:00 PM||FOX|
|15||Sun. Dec.15||vs. Seattle Seahawks||1:00 PM||FOX|
|16||Sun. Dec.22||at Indianapolis Colts||1:00 PM||FOX|
|17||Sun. Dec.29||vs. New Orleans Saints||1:00 PM||FOX|
*Game to be played in London
To open the year, the Panthers will welcome a Rams team which has had months to stew over a Super Bowl loss. That’s followed by a home date with the Buccaneers and a road date at the Cardinals, so there is a chance the team can put together some early wins.
Three more games follow before a Week 7 bye, including a London game versus the Buccaneers. After some time off, Carolina faces a tough stretch against five teams which could be in the playoff mix in 2019.
A home date with the Redskins could provide some breathing room depending on how things shake out in the nation’s capital. After that, it’s another daunting series with four straight versus potential playoff squads.
Carolina Panthers 2019 Outlook
The Saints are favored to take down the NFC South, while the Falcons and Panthers have some breathing room over the Buccaneers, at least according to the oddsmakers. New Tampa Bay head coach Bruce Arians will have something to say about that. Either way, a split of the six division games is reasonable if the Panthers can get their act together on defense.
For the remaining conference schedule, Carolina will welcome the Rams, Redskins, and Seahawks to town. They’ll be on the road for games with the Cardinals, 49ers, and Packers. A split is a reasonable ask, while less than that could be a sign of a long season for the Panthers.
Interconference play translates into four games with the tough AFC South. The Panthers will be on the road to face the Texans and Colts. They’ll be home for tilts with the Jaguars and Titans. A record of 2-2 for these four games may be the best the team can hope for.
Carolina Panthers 2019 Win Total Odds and Pick
Here is where the bar has been set for the Panthers in 2019. NFL betting sites have dubbed them a half-game better than last year’s 7-9 team.
Total Regular Season Wins:
Betting odds provided by: MyBookie.ag
If Newton is ready to hit the ground running on offense in Week 1 without any lingering issues, then there should be an improvement on offense. Turner is a masterful play caller, and McCaffrey is a weapon which is the envy of many teams across the league. We’re not sold on the wideouts, but a full-strength Newton should make a big difference.
The indecisiveness on defense has us feeling skittish. Washington was demoted during last season, but suddenly all was forgiven in the offseason? It’s one of the more curious coaching moves of the offseason, to say the least. Rivera will still have plenty to say about how the defense is run, but this still seems a bit odd.
If the Panthers can get it together on defense, this club is talented enough to get to nine wins. We’re not believers that’s going to happen, so we’re rolling with the Under and expecting another seven-win campaign.