Projected record: 9–7
The Panthers go as Cam Newton goes, and how he rehabs from his (late) shoulder surgery and avoids re-injury will be paramount to their success. What’s further concerning about Newton is his protection at tackle. Michael Oher should go back to right tackle once he passes the concussion protocol, and Matt Kalil must get better if he’ll be serviceable on the blind side. Finally the Panthers have a dynamic offensive weapon in Christian McCaffrey to fool defenses and get Newton easy completions.
Pivotal game: Week 8 at Buccaneers. In a tight division, Carolina needs to reassert itself as the dominant team that won the NFC South three straight times. This is the Panthers’ first road divisional game, and it will be followed immediately by a visit from the Falcons.