Head coach Ron Rivera was named the NFL Coach of the Year in 2013 after his Panthers were the surprise of the league, going 12-4 and overtaking the division from the heavily favored New Orleans Saints. Cam Newton had his best year as a pro, but lost his top 3 receivers in the offseason. Steve Smith is a Raven, Brandon Lafell is a Patriot, and Ted Ginn is a Cardinal. New receivers Jason Avant, Jerricho Cotchery and first round draft pick Kelvin Benjamin from Florida State will try to fill in, but Cam just strikes me as a guy that will need extra time to adjust to new faces. Newton will most likely take a huge step back in 2014.
Can you believe that this team has kept DeAngelo Williams and Jonathon Stewart as their featured backs as long as they have? I sure as hell can’t. Williams has been on the team since 2006, Stewart since 2008. Do those two ever seem to do anything year in and year out? Get some new damn running backs already.
Carolina’s defense can be described in one word: vicious. Completely opposite of the Falcons defense. They play old school “smash mouth” football. Carolina is led by linebacker Luke Kuechly and defensive ends Greg “the Kraken” Hardy and Charles Johnson. Kuechly was awarded the defensive rookie of the year two years ago, and overall defensive MVP last year. Johnson and Hardy combined for 26 sacks. helping a unit that was the second in the NFL for points allowed and yards allowed in 2013. Only the Super Bowl Champion Seahawks were better in those two categories. This defense wants to hurt you. I love watching them.
Carolina’s stout defense will keep them in the playoff hunt, but the offense has a lot of ground to make up, to compete with some other big name NFC teams, I dont expect them to win 12 games again but should have double digit wins.
Click on the logo below to see the next team in Hawk’s 2014 NFL Preview: NFC South Edition: the New Orleans Saints: