The Carolina Panthers Will Dominate the NFC South

The Carolina Panthers ran through the NFC South in 2015, finishing the season with a record of 15-1, seven games over the second place team, the 8-8 Atlanta Falcons. In 2016, it might just be easier for them.

The Carolina Panthers Will Dominate the NFC South

The Panthers ran through their division without star receiver Kelvin Benjamin, who tore his ACL during training camp, which made him miss the entire 2015 season. During his rookie season in 2014, Benjamin caught 73 passes for 1,008 yards and nine touchdowns. The Panthers were looking for him to excel from that season during his sophomore campaign before he tore his ACL.

Without Benjamin, the team was led by rookie receiver Devin Funchess out of Michigan, as well as their other receivers in Ted Ginn Jr., Jerricho Cotchery and star tight end Greg Olsen. Funchess caught 31 passes for 473 yards and five touchdowns. There is much room for improvement for him. Ginn caught 44 passes for 739 yards and 10 touchdowns. He was a huge part of this team not just as a receiver, but as a kick returner and punt returner as well. He returned 27 punts for 277 yards. Olsen led the team with 1,104 yards on 77 receptions and seven touchdowns.

The man that led Carolina to the promised land was their NFL MVP quarterback Cam Newton. He was an amazing, versatile quarterback, using both his arms and legs to lead his team. He passed for 3,837 yards and a career-high 35 touchdowns to go along with a career-low 10 interceptions. He also ran for 636 yards and 10 touchdowns.

The Panthers were really good last season, and they’re going to be that much better in 2016. Benjamin is a big part of the team and his contribution will make them more dominant than they already were. But just because they’ll be dominant doesn’t mean they’ll fly through the NFC South, right? Wrong.

The Atlanta Falcons got off to a hot start in 2015, starting the season 6-1. Devonta Freeman had rushed for seven touchdowns in the team’s first five games. After that, however, he rushed for just four touchdowns in his final 11 games. Wide receiver Julio Jones got off to a similar hot start for the Falcons, scoring four touchdowns in the first three games. After that, however, he scored just four touchdowns the rest of the way. The Falcons went on to finish the season with an 8-8 record. That was with their franchise wide receiver Roddy White, who only caught one touchdown out of the 43 receptions he recorded. Now that he is gone, the Falcons are headed for a downward spiral.

The New Orleans Saints haven’t been the same since they won Super Bowl XLIV in 2010. They have missed the playoffs each of the last two seasons. Drew Brees has certainly not been the same quarterback, either. Since 2011, his numbers in passing yards and passing touchdowns have dropped. In 2015, the Saints lost four games against teams that finished with sub-500 records. They also struggled against a New York Giants team that had one good wide receiver in Odell Beckham Jr. and gave up 39 points to Sam Bradford and Demarco Murray, who had career-low seasons.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have an average quarterback in Jameis Winston, but there were three games where he didn’t thrown a touchdown and seven games where he only threw one touchdown. Mike Evans, the team’s leading receiver, only caught three touchdowns. This team is no match for the Panthers, either.

The Panthers are just too dominant to come by. While they may not finish 15-1 again or repeat as NFC Champions, they could most certainly win the division by Week 10 with the type of team they have.

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