It is a little over three months until the 2016-17 NFL season kicks off and the Carolina Panthers begin their season on Thursday, September 8 against the defending champions, the Denver Broncos. In a re-match of last season’s Super Bowl, the Panthers start the season off with a bang and have a tough first-half of the season. Here is my prediction for the Panthers first eight games of 2016-17. I’ll follow this up with a second half of the season preview next week.
Thursday, September 8 @ Denver Broncos
Analysis: The Carolina Panthers should triumph in a re-match of last year’s Super Bowl. The Denver Broncos have lost both their starting and backup quarterbacks from 2015-16 in addition to Malik Jackson to name a few. Cam Newton has this early season clash marked down on his schedule, and “Supercam” should shine in Denver.
Prediction: 24-10 Panthers.
Sunday, September 18 vs. San Francisco 49ers
Analysis: The San Francisco 49ers are a train wreck, to say the least. Since Jim Harbaugh has departed, Colin Kaepernick has looked less and less like the player tabbed to replace Alex Smith back in 2012 and more like a player akin to Mark Sanchez. With Chip Kelly at the helm, anything is possible, but the Panthers should blow out the dysfunctional team from the Bay area.
Prediction: 42-14 Panthers.
Sunday, September 25 vs. Minnesota Vikings
Analysis: The Vikings have improved drastically over the last couple of seasons, going from the laughingstock of the NFC North to a legitimate contender in the NFC. The Panthers, however, have proven the past few seasons their propensity for stopping the run, and should continue against the Vikings. Look for Teddy Bridgewater and Adrian Peterson to be limited, with the Panthers pulling away late in the game.
Prediction: 28-17 Panthers.
Sunday, October 2 @ Atlanta Falcons
Analysis: The Panthers visit “Matty Ice” and the Atlanta Falcons in week four, in their semi-annual clash with their NFC south rivals. Cam Newton and Carolina are on a revenge tour, and the Atlanta game will for sure be on their radar. Losing 20-13 in the second to last game of the regular season left a sting, and look for the Panther defense and offense to go full throttle at the “bird gang”.
Prediction: 38-14 Panthers.
Monday, October 10 vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Analysis: Tampa Bay has seen clear improvements over the last few seasons, and with the emergence of Jameis Winston, they could potentially challenge Carolina for the NFC south crown. Nonetheless, it will most likely take two or three seasons before Tampa Bay is fully capable of competing against the vaunted Panthers defense and the multi-dimensional play of Cam Newton. Winston is good, but the Panthers as a whole are better than the Buccaneers.
Prediction: 35-21 Panthers.
Sunday, October 16 @ New Orleans Saints
Analysis: The Saints have faded and fast over the last few seasons. They just aren’t the same team they once were, and the Panthers offense should tear them apart, even if the game is in the Superdome. The Panthers are still kings of the south, and the Saints are the team of yesterday.
Prediction: 28-17 Panthers.
Sunday, October 30 vs. Arizona Cardinals
Analysis: This will easily be the biggest challenge for the Panthers in the first half of their schedule. The Arizona Cardinals are a good team, and Bruce Arians has proved his worth as a coach. While the game is in Carolina, the Cardinals have many reasons to knock the Panthers out in this early season clash. Unfortunately for Carolina, I see this game going the Cardinals way in a close one. Nonetheless, if and when these teams meet in the playoffs, I see Carolina squeaking by then.
Prediction: 28-24 Cardinals.
Sunday, November 6 vs. Los Angeles Rams
Analysis: The Rams are going to have Jared Goff…and not much else. This should be a walk in the park for the Panthers. While Goff could make one or two big plays, the Panthers once again beat the Rams because they are a team versus one individual. Look for the Panthers to finish out the first half of their schedule strong with a blow-out victory.
Prediction: 49-10 Panthers.
The Panthers should be 7-1 heading into the second-half of the season. With essentially everyone besides Josh Norman returning, and the addition of their draft picks, the Panthers are in prime position to once again compete for another Super Bowl appearance.
Stay tuned for the second-half of the season predictions and analysis sometime next week.