The Carolina Panthers open up the regular season this Sunday in Phoenix against the Arizona Cardinals.
Now that the preseason is over, it is time for us to focus on the regular season. Seth already posted his predictions for the 2011 season and he has the Panthers going 7-9. Instead of focusing on each game, I’m going to throw out my predictions for the season as a whole. Check back after the break as I look into the 2011 season.
The main focus of the Panthers’ 2011 season is none other than 1st overall pick Cam Newton. Cam had a decent showing this preseason, but nothing spectacular. Newton is going to face some of the best defenses in the league. If you combine that with his status as less than a rookie (thanks to the lockout) Newton is going to struggle. Newton could have solid and stellar games against Arizona, Jacksonville, Washington, Minnesota and Tampa Bay (at home of course), but that is where the forgiveness for the rookie ends. HE could have multiple picks in the remaining games, as he is playing some tough defenses. He will showcase his athleticism, but that will not be enough to counteract the secondary pressure he will face. I expect Newton to have a mediocre season: throwing for 2,300 yards, running for 750 yards, with 15 passing touchdowns, 19 interceptions, and 4-5 rushing touchdowns.
That being said, I expect Steve Smith to have a comeback year (I can hope because I drafted him in my fantasy league). Last year, with Clausen at QB, Smith had career lows in receptions and yards, 46 and 554 respectively. Clausen and Smith never meshed well and Smith even voiced his concern with the future of the organization if Clausen stays in at QB. Now in this off season No. 89 has let the world know that he is happy with Cam Newton at QB. This is a blessing in disguise because a happy Steve Smith means a Happy Panthers organization. I expect Greg Olsen and Steve Smith to be Newton’s favorite targets all season. If I had to make a prediction I would put Steve Smith up there in the league with 85 Catches for 950 yards, and Greg Olsen will be in the top tier of TE’s with 65 catches for 650 yards.
With DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart back and healthy look for the Panthers to run the ball a bit more. I’m predicting Double Trouble to have stats like they did back in 2009, when both D-Will and J-Stew both ran for 1100 yards. The Panthers cannot expect Newton to carry this team based on his passing ability, because right now he is lacking in that area. In 2009 the Panthers had 525 rushing attempts with 437 attempts coming from Double Trouble alone. I expect the team to recreate that and assume the two will have about 250 attempts each. The kicker is that the Panthers might be able to implement the option into the NFL. Newton’s running ability is a step above most NFL QB’s and he can effectively help the backfield get down the field. My official predictions have D-Will at 246 carries for 1200 yards and J-Stew at 230 carries for 1129 yards.
Now onto the Carolina Panthers’ Defense. Last year the Panthers’ defense wasn’t terrible but it could have made improvements. From what I’ve seen in the preseason our running D could use some work. Last year Charles Johnson had 11.5 sacks, and was resigned to a monster contract this offseason. I predict Johnson will light it up again and possibly lead the league in sacks with 13.5. The Panthers have two new D-Linemen in Sione Fua and Terrell McClain and I expect them to both perform well. I would have to predict the two as having about 4-5 sacks each as Johnson takes up double coverage 95% of the time. Our linebacker core will continue to dominate with Thomas Davis, James Anderson and Jon Beason. Anderson was the lead linebacker last year when Beason was switched to a different position, but expect both of them to have amazing seasons. I predict Beason to have a great season like 2009, and expect him to have 4 sacks, 2 interceptions and 2 forced fumbles. Anderson could put up great numbers as well and I have him with 2.5 sacks, 1 interception and 2 forced fumbles. I predict both LB’s to have 130+ tackles this year.
With stats out of the way, I would like to focus on my prediction of the Panther’s this season. I predict the team to go 6-10 with wins over Jacksonville, Chicago, Tennessee, Minnesota, Washington, and Tampa Bay (Week 16). In all of these games, I predict Newton to have no more than 1 interception and no less than 1 passing touchdown. In order for the Panthers to win, he has to be solid in the pocket.
That is it for my predictions. I hope the Panthers prove me wrong and end up with a winning season, but I just don’t see it happening in Newton’s first year. I’ve only focused on the main players of our team, so if you would like to hear my predictions on more people, comment below or email me @ [email protected]