No it’s not a typo, the Carolina Panthers will win Super Bowl LVI and I’m about to explain why.
Where do I begin? How about with the best running back in the league Christian Jackson McCaffrey. Having taken the league by storm in 2017 Christian McCaffrey has now become the face of the running back division and he is just one of three running backs ever to have 1,000 receiving and 1,000 rushing yards in a season, and he’s just getting started.
The 2020 season didn’t go quite to plan for McCaffrey as he was unfortunately riddled with injuries. 374 scrimmage yards and 6 touchdowns in only 3 games shows how much talent this young man has, but the reason I’m bringing him up first? Carolina Panthers lost 8 of their games last season by one score and with McCaffrey’s TD record, half of them losses become wins. Takes a bang average 5-11 team to a 9-7 Wildcard team. Do you believe me yet? Of course you don’t. Next!
Panthers defence; a stable of young, hungry and ring chasing athletes ready to put their bodies on the line to stop a football crossing the end zone. Matt Rhule started off his panthers coaching career by drafting 7 defensive players in the 2020 NFL draft with the most notable of the rookies being free safety Jeremy Chinn.
Chinn who plays Safety for the panthers was drafted in the second round pick 64 from Southern Illinois College. Chinn became the first player to score two fumble returns since Fred Evans in 1948 for the Chicago Bears and he lead all rookies with the most tackles at 117, five QB hits, five pass breakups, two tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries for touchdowns and one sack. He also was a candidate for the rookie of the year award and will look to build on that in the coming season. His best performance of the season came at Minnesota when he registered 13 tackles, 1 QB hit and returned two fumbles in a span of 10 seconds.
Along with all the youth in the squad the Panthers have delved into free agency for some much needed experience. They announced the signings of middle linebackers Denzel Perryman and Haason Reddick with Perryman yet to complete a full season injury free but when fit is one of the better linebackers in the league. Haason Reddick – a previous first round pick on the other hand is yet to miss a game and both being hard hitters leaving everything on the field.
With all this experience from the free agency to add to the young talent already on the books in Carolina, the defence will look to tighten up and stop last year’s leaky spells. If this were to happen alongside McCaffrey being back to full health, it would take a 9-7 Wildcard team to a 12-4 division winning team. Convinced now? No? Well there’s more.
The QB dilemma. Teddy Bridgewater is currently at the helm of the Panthers offensive playbook but it doesn’t look like it’ll be him come the first game of the season. Bridgewater with a measly passer rating of 92.1 left a lot to be desired last season. Even with 3 of the wide receivers, DJ Moore, Robby Anderson and Curtis Samuel each having over 1,000 scrimmage yards, Bridgewater could only manage 15 touchdowns which came along with 11 interceptions and 6 fumbles. So the Panthers have the eighth overall pick of the 2021 draft there are a lot of rumours a QB will be selected to replace Bridgewater. The panthers also boast a healthy salary cap and with the rumours surrounding Deshaun Watson wanting out of the Texans the panthers may be looking to ‘pounce’.
There is a wealth of QB’s in the 2021 draft and with the eighth pick, the Panthers are in a great position to draft one. Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence is being heralded as a player of a generation and will undoubtedly be the first pick of the draft and end up at the Jacksonville Jaguars. After that it’s up for grabs. Zach Wilson, Justin Fields and Trey Lance are all projected to go in the top 10 but could be in any order. The New York Jets are second to pick in the draft and there is a lot of uncertainty with what they will do. Miami Dolphins are at three and already have their star QB; Tua Tagovailoa who they selected fifth overall in the 2020 draft.
The Panthers signed Scott Fitterer as GM at the start of 2021 and Fitterer is known for his aggressive moves and bold trades which he did in his previous franchise, the Seattle Seahawks. There could well be a chance that the Panthers trade up from eighth to second or third to secure their franchise QB.
Deshaun Watson is one of the top 3 QB’s in the league and to get him to Carolina won’t be cheap. The 3 time Pro Bowl star has fallen out with the owners of the Texans over the course of the past year and it all started when they traded his number one wide receiver Deandre Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals for a 2020 second round pick, 2021 fourth round pick and aging running back David Johnson. The Texans then saying they’ll listen to his opinions on the hiring of the next GM, when according to reports CEO Cal McNair had already signed Nick Caserio while interviews were being conducted. This leading Watson to tweet “I was on 2 then I took it to 10” implying that his frustration level is 10/10.
The Texans are yet to come out and say that Watson is up for trade but should they, then a lot of teams will be interested. The reason I think he’ll end up in the Panthers is down to one man, our young up-and-coming Offensive Coordinator Joe Brady.
Brady was hired as Carolina’s offensive co-ordinator in January 2020 and had previously helped the LSU Tigers and now Cincinnati Bengals QB Joe Burrow to a National Championship with Burrow also winning the Heisman Trophy that year. Brady was awarded the Boyles award as the top assistant coach in 2019 and managed to get an average of 6.6 yards per pass attempt out of Bridgewater so we can only imagine the numbers he could achieve with Watson, who led Houston to the highest yards per pass attempt in the league at 7.6.
Deshaun Watson has only been in the league 4 years and is getting better and better each season but his 2020 season was his standout, with a 70.2% completion rating, 33 touchdowns and despite having arguably one of the worst offensive lines last season, still managed a passer rating of 112.4 second only to league MVP and future hall of famer Aaron Rodgers.
Should panthers acquire a QB in the draft or get the deal done with Watson to guide the wide receiver core at Carolina, this could spell trouble for the rest of the league. A new QB along with a tightened up defence and a healthy McCaffrey could turn a 12-4 division winning team to a yes you guessed it, 16-0 Super Bowl winning powerhouse.