The Carolina Panthers have not made the playoffs since Cam Newton was at the peak of his powers, but that could change in the coming season. Armed with a first-year head coach and quarterback, can the pair of newcomers surprise the league and make a push for the postseason in 2023?
Carolina Panthers Playoff Odds in 2023
Why They Can
The two most important parts of any organization are quarterback and head coach, and the Panthers have a lot of promise at both positions. While this is his first year in Carolina, Frank Reich is coming off a successful tenure in Indianapolis where he led the Colts to winning seasons in three of his five years despite a constantly-rotating door at the quarterback position. While the 2022 season was a bit of a disaster in Indianapolis, his overall body of work suggests he’s a good coach, and the fact that the team fell apart without him only reinforces this notion.
The quarterback position is a much bigger question mark, but for the first time since 2018, there is some real hope under center. After getting by with mediocre bridge quarterbacks for the past few years, the Panthers finally invested in a player that could legitimately turn into a franchise quarterback. Bryce Young might need some time to develop, but if he hits the ground running, then this team could compete.
Coach and quarterback are obviously important, but they can’t do it alone. Fortunately, the rest of the roster has a decent amount of talent. While they’re certainly not legitimate Super Bowl contenders, it’s worth noting that they went 6-6 after firing Matt Rhule despite subpar quarterback play. The defense has several talented playmakers, and that might be enough for the Panthers to earn a trip to the playoffs in the weak NFC South.
Why The Panthers Can’t Make the Playoffs
While the 2022 Panthers showed some signs of life down the stretch, this team is still a ways away from turning into a legitimate contender. With a rookie quarterback, it’s ok to put more emphasis on ensuring the Panthers have their franchise passer, rather than trying to hinder his development in pursuit of the playoffs.
In today’s pass-happy NFL, you need to throw the ball well if you want any shot of making a deep playoff run. The Panthers added a great quarterback in Bryce Young, but they sacrificed D.J. Moore for the right to make that selection. Now, the Panthers have arguably the worst wide receiver room in football, with veterans Adam Thielen and D.J. Chark expected to lead the team in targets. While Terrace Marshall is impressing early and Jonathan Mingo has plenty of upside, it’s hard to see this unit being enough to support a rookie quarterback.
Ultimately, the Panthers easiest path to the playoffs probably comes from winning the NFC South. The division should be weak for the second straight year, and if the Saints don’t play up to their talents, then Carolina could win the division by default. However, even if they do make the playoffs, the Panthers time in the postseason will probably be short-lived.
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