The Carolina Panthers have dominated the NFC South for the last three years and the following reasons are why their dominance will result in their fourth successive Divisional title in 2016.
Wham, Bam, Thank You Cam
Is Cam Newton the top QB in the NFL? Definitely not. Is he the most dynamic? Yes without question.
Since entering the league as the number one overall draft pick in 2011, Newton has yet to show any signs of approaching his ceiling (with the exception of when he ended up on the roof of his upturned motor after a car accident in 2014).
After unsuccessfully obtaining the number 2 jersey from then Panthers QB Jimmy Clausen, Newton kept the number of shirt from draft night which now seems highly appropriate for Super Cam. Prior to Newton’s career, the NFL’s leading rushing Quarterback was the left-handed HOF-er Steve Young who amassed an impressive 43 rushing touchdowns over his 169 game career.
Newton has also rushed for 43 touchdowns but in 91 FEWER games than Young (43TDs in only 78 games for those struggling with the maths). So to stop Newton from scoring you just stop him running? Unfortunately his 35 TDs in 16 regular season games in 2015 would suggest that he’s pretty useful with his arm too.
If there is one constant criticism of Newton it is his accuracy as he has a tendency to overthrow his targets. One easy way to fix this issue is to surround him with giants which brings me nicely on to…
The Ball Catchers
Kelvin Benjamin (6’5”), Devin Funchess (6’4”) & Greg Olsen (6’5”) are all huge targets for Newton.
Granted, the NFC South teams all faced a relatively weak schedule in 2015 but the Panthers almost completed the rare achievement of a perfect regular season without their number one wideout as Benjamin went down with a serious knee injury in pre-season.
Having a complete year to recover from his injury along with his young age, Benjamin appears to have made a full recovery and is hoping to recapture his form from his rookie year which can only aid the Panthers chances of a return trip to the Super Bowl.
Devin Funchess was selected in the 2nd round in 2015 and began to make an impact half way through the 2015 season in a win against the Packers. Funchess’ presence on the field will provide not only another big target for Newton but will also prevent teams from double teaming Benjamin.
Of course, if both big bodied WRs are covered then Newton can simply turn to his Mister Dependable Greg Olsen. Olsen is comfortably the top Tight End in the NFC South and has averaged more than 70 receptions and 6 touchdowns over each of his last four seasons in Carolina. Olsen has also surpassed 1000 yards receiving for both of his last two seasons.
The Defensive Front 7
One of the top Defences in today’s NFL. Had the Panthers won Super Bowl 50, Kony Ealy would have been MVP. Ealy was outstanding in the loss to the Broncos and should continue the form he showed towards the end of the season.
Star Lotulelei is often overlooked due to his fellow DT, Kawann Short, but Short will be the first to admit that without Lotulelei, his own performance would drop off. It is difficult to select a better pairing of DTs in the league today.
The second DE is Charles Johnson who is entering this 10th season, Johnson still has the appetite for the game and since he re-signed with the Panthers in the off season for substantially less money would indicate that the drive is still there.
Patrolling behind the D-Line are one of the top duo of Linebackers in the league; Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis. Both players are complete 3 down players and are equally effective against the pass and the run.
Add in the fact that the 3rd Linebacker of the group is 2015 1st round draft pick Shaq Thompson then it’s no surprise that the Panthers defense continue to dominate the NFL.
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