Carolina Panthers
Jim Dedmon- USA TODAY Sports

The Carolina Panthers Will Make The 2021 NFL Playoffs

The Carolina Panthers had a disappointing 2020 season under first-year head coach Matt Rhule. They were hit with a number of injuries to key players, Teddy Bridgewater’s starting QB days were clearly behind him and the team suffered from some growing pains. This year, however, the Panthers acquired Sam Darnold from the Jets, drafted Jaycee Horn and Terrace Marshall, and have put together some really nice offensive pieces. One of my favorite bets for the 2021 NFL season is Panthers over 7.5 wins. Mark my words, the Carolina Panthers will make a Wild Card appearance in 2021.

Top-Heavy Division

Do not get it twisted, the NFC South belongs to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. However, the rest of the division is in shambles and it is very conceivable that the Panthers finished second behind the Bucs. The New Orleans Saints have become an overrated team following the departure of Drew Brees. Jameis Winston will be productive but his decision-making is still a huge question mark and something is going on with Michael Thomas. The Saints are in salary cap hell and they do not have an abundance of elite offensive pieces outside running back Alvin Kamara.

Do I even have to get into the Atlanta Falcons? They do have Calvin Ridley and rookie Kyle Pitts working in the offense, but their defense was horrible in 2020 and did not add any pieces in 2021. I like Arthur Smith as an offensive play-caller but I am hesitant to mark him as a good head coach. In all likelihood, the Falcons will be drafting in the top five for the second year in a row.

Favorable Schdeule

The Panthers’ schedule opens up with some really bad teams. Their first five games are Jets, Saints, Texans, Cowboys, Eagles. Three dumpster fires in the Jets, Texans, Eagles, and two overrated teams with question marks in the Cowboys and Saints. They also play the NFC East and, as I mentioned above, they have a chance to make some noise in the division.

They do finish the season pretty rough with the Bills, Bucs, Saints, and Bucs again, but this could work out for Carolina, as the Bucs will likely be playoff-bound by week 18 and could sit some starters in their final game.

Elite Offensive Pieces

The Panthers have put together some high-level offensive personnel. Christian McCaffrey is the best running back in the league and when he is healthy is uber-productive in both the passing and rushing attack. Their wide receivers are fantastic: DJ Moore is an underrated receiver, Robby Anderson is a nice deep threat, and rookie Terrace Marshall has a chance to be special. Their offensive line could be better but right tackle Taylor Moton and center Matt Paradis are quality pieces.

Pair all that talent with OC Joe Brady and this offense could be very competitive.

Biggest Question Mark

The biggest question mark for the Carolina Panthers in 2021 is the defense. They have some pieces that I like in Brian Burns, Derrick Brown, and Jeremy Chinn, but whether or not they can put those pieces together remains to be seen. Their secondary and d-line have some talent but the linebacker room is a mystery at this point. Although they went 4-12 last season, their defense was competitive in almost every game they played. Their record might not have been great, but they were in nearly every game down the stretch.

My NFC Playoff teams are Bucs, Packers, Giants, Rams, 49ers, Seahawks, and Panthers. I do not believe in the Cowboys, the Cardinals are in the toughest division in football, the Vikings’ defense is bad and I see Ryan Fitzpatrick as the downfall of the WFT. The Panthers will sneak in as the seventh seed.

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