Carolina Panthers: 5 Reasons Panthers Won't Make the Playoffs
The atmosphere surrounding the Panther’s training camp is so optimistic it prompted center Ryan Kalil to take a full ad out in the newspaper touting a Super Bowl victory for the team.
Kalil listed several reasons why the Panthers will win the Super Bowl, and while his bravado should be applauded, it’s unwarranted. The Panthers, although improving, will not only fail in their lofty goals, but they will miss the NFL playoffs. Here's why.
Newton Headed for a Sophomore Slump?
Cam Newton is one of the most explosive players in football. He is fun to watch, and his energy and enthusiasm for the game is contagious.
In one short year, he has become one of the leaders of the Panthers, and he can run and throw, which makes him a double-threat on the field. Many of the experts believe that Newton can deliver on the promise to win a Super Bowl.
However, defenses now have extensive game film on Newton and will have a much different approach to preparing for the Panthers this year. It all starts with stopping Newton and confusing the young scrambler with different defensive looks.
The second year in the NFL could prove to be a learning process for Newton, and that is not good news for Panther fans.
It could be argued that the NFC South is one of the most competitive divisions in football.
Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints have something to prove after Bounty-gate. Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons have a shot of representing the NFC at the Super Bowl, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are vastly improved from a year ago.
During the 2011 season, the Panthers finished 2-4 in conference with the only two wins coming against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Expecting the Panthers to finish above .500 in conference is asking too much for a young team still building.
The Panthers spent most of the offseason surrounding Newton with talent by re-signing Steve Smith, bringing in free agent fullback Mike Tolbert and locking up running back Jonathan Stewart, but what about the defense?
Jon Beason is arguably the best player on the Panthers' defense, but he has proven he is unable to stay healthy. Panthers defensive end Charles Johnson received a big payday in the offseason, but he also has some injury concerns. Right now there are just too many questions on the defensive side of the ball to predict a preseason berth for this team.
The Panthers finished 28th in total defense a year ago and need to do their part if they have any chance of making the postseason.
If playing in conference is not hard enough, the Panthers have a difficult schedule for 2012.
The Panthers have games against the Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, and Chicago Bears, all teams that have a chance of making it to the playoffs. Difficult road games on the West Coast against the San Diego Chargers and in the intimidating atmosphere of Arrowhead Stadium against the Kansas City Chiefs will provide a daunting task for the Panthers.
The schedule is so hard to navigate that the Panthers could enter Week 6, their bye week, with a record of 1-4. That kind of start would nearly guarantee that this team would not make the playoffs.
Not so Special Teams
The Panthers did a terrific job of upgrading the special teams by selecting Joe Adams out of Arkansas. This kid is a game changer and has an outstanding chance of making an impact in year one as a Panther. In fact, it has been suggested that Adams can make a run at rookie of the year, but the Panthers have another glaring issue on special teams they failed to address.
The Panthers are awful at stopping other teams from returning big kicks on special teams.
It was on display in Week 1 of the NFL preseason when the Panthers allowed Trindon Holliday of the Houston Texans to return a kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown. The special-teams unit is constantly giving the opponent decent field position, and this will eventually cost them victories.
In the NFL, a team has to do the little things if they hope to make the playoffs.
Future Is Bright
The future is bright for the Carolina Panthers.
They have one of the most exciting young players in football in Newton and are slowly building the franchise in the right direction.
They are not very far from being a NFL playoff team, but to think they will make it this year is a bit premature. This year the Panthers will be respectable and will manage to get a few impressive victories but are still a year away from entering the playoffs.
James Brown is a B/R featured columnist and can be followed on Twitter. Feel free to contact James at firstname.lastname@example.org. He also is a contributor at Bookie Blitz, a sports picks website and the official blog of the World Series of Handicapping.