Mister Obvious Says – What Carolina Panthers team will show up this year? The one that ended last year strong, ranking as the top rushing team in the NFL after its bye week? The one that finished with a top 10 offense and top 5 defense? Or the team that was 7-8-1 overall and was in the bottom 10 in yards gained and yards allowed by the 11th week of last season?
Biggest Addition – A lack of salary cap space prevented Carolina from signing big-name free agents although wide receiver and returner Ted Ginn Jr. could be a playmaker.
Biggest Loss – RB DeAngelo Williams, who played in only six games last year because of an ankle injury, left for Pittsburgh after spending his first nine seasons with Carolina.
Rookie To Watch – LB Shaq Thompson – Grant High School in Sacramento, Ca – excelled on both sides of the ball last year for the Washington Huskies, where he also dazzled as a running back. His athleticism has impressed the Panthers coach Ron Rivera who said he wants Thompson to play alongside veterans Thomas Davis and Luke Kuechly.
Marquee Match-up – The Panthers’ game at Dallas on Thanksgiving Day in Week 12 should be entertaining as you consume turkey and fixings.
Game Most Likely to Win – Before heading to Dallas in a very short week, Carolina hopes to dispose of visiting Washington in Week 11.
Game Most Likely to Lose – That Dallas game in Week 12 will be difficult because of the four days to prepare, not to mention the travel and the distraction a Thanksgiving game brings.
Overall Thoughts – Carolina combines a potentially potent offense behind Newton with a strong defense that includes an abundance of athleticism on the ends and in the secondary. The Panthers have most of the pieces back from last year’s team that gathered steam and won a playoff game despite a 7-8-1 season at the end of the regular season. The key will be the health of RB Jonathan Stewart and the effectiveness of the offensive line to give Newton time to operate.
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