2010 Carolina Panthers Team Preview/Predictions
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2009 Record: 8-8
The 2009 season for the Carolina Panthers fell far short of expectations. A team that won the NFC South and earned the No. 2 playoff seed in the 2008 regular season was expected to repeat as the division champion.
Carolina had the defense, the power running game, and the capable downfield threat (Steve Smith) to give NFC opponents fits once again. All the pieces were in place; coach John Fox’s team just had to execute and retain its capacity to play clinical and effective football in a no-frills manner.
Jake Delhomme quarterbacked Carolina to the franchise’s only Super Bowl appearance in the 2003 NFL campaign. Delhomme then put together a solid 2008 as Carolina won 12 games and earned the second seed in the NFC postseason. More often than not, Delhomme was a veteran presence who could be counted on to get the ball to Smith and other capable receivers.
Yes, Carolina didn’t make the playoffs every year, as Delhomme struggled with consistency, but in most Autumnal odysseys, this was a franchise that could be expected to contend for playoff spots in the heat of December battle.
In 2009, the familiar narrative simply didn’t unfold. Delhomme started horribly and never righted the ship. A steady stream of interceptions from his right arm short-circuited scoring drives and wasted the running prowess of Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams. Carolina’s defense was very solid in 2009; the Panthers allowed only two opponents – New Orleans and Philadelphia – to reach the 30-point mark.
Yet, the repeated inability of Delhomme to protect the ball kept knocking the Panthers off the path. The endless cycle of turnovers and misfires never got corrected, and the team fell to 5-8 after 13 games.
When backup Matt Moore took over for Delhomme in the final three weeks, a game-management philosophy replaced Delhomme’s recklessness, and sure enough, Carolina won each Sunday to finish its season at 8-8. Moore stayed on for the 2010 season, while Delhomme is now a member of the Cleveland Browns. That’s hardly an idle coincidence.
The key in 2010, for reasons already hinted at above, is rather obvious. Moore, the new starting quarterback, has to control the game, protect the ball, and make basic reads to get the ball to backs and receivers within the context of a short passing game.
Moore doesn’t have to win games for his team; his job – as is the case with so many NFL quarterbacks these days – is to not lose any contests for the Panthers.
If the ball-control model, coupled with a smashmouth running game, can churn clock and score 20 points every week, this team could grind out enough wins to finish 9-7 or maybe 10-6.
It’s asking a lot with an unproven quarterback, but that’s what the Panthers have to do to win games in 2010. It’s not as though they can become the New Orleans Saints or New England Patriots and sling the ball over the field.
Panthers 2010 Outlook
Carolina’s only going to win with one style or methodology.
Panthers 2010 Futures
Super Bowl Odds: +5250
Conference Odds: +2550
NFC South Odds: +605
2010 Panthers Predictions
Place they’ll finish in NFC South: 3rd
Place they’ll finish in NFC Conference: 9th
Over/Under Season Wins Prediction: Over 7.5 Wins
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Dave Golokhov has written for BETUS Sportsbook, Sportsfanmagazine.com, FOX, Askmen.com, Sports-central.org, and the FOXSports.com Funhouse.