Welcome to “Pretty Much Screwed,” our definitive guide to the upcoming NFL season. This team-by-team preview details why your favorite franchise might have to start looking forward to next year — but highlights at least one reason for you to be hopeful. Today: our Matt Rudnitsky explains why the Carolina Panthers are screwed, just as they were yesterday.
Carolina Panthers, I actually like you guys. Cam Newton, Steve Smith and DeAngelo Williams might be my three favorite players in football. They’re explosive and awesome. Sadly, three players not a football team make. You guys cannot escape being screwed, just like everyone else in the NFL.
Your schedule is harder than the 987th level of Candy Crush.
That was an attempt at a pop culture joke. I’m very hip. I don’t actually play Candy Crush. Fuck people who play Candy Crush (sorry, 99% of readers.)
Seriously, your division consists of the Payton Breesys, the Falcons and the improving Bucs. All of those teams could be very good. You guys could be really good, and still be worse than all of them. If you were in the AFC East, you’re looking like 10-6, easy. Now, who the fuck knows?
You barely got better, and you were bad last year.
Anyone who likes the Panthers this year will shout that they won 5 of their last 6 games. The wins came against the worst defense in NFL history (Saints), the Chargers (GAH THEY WERE SO BAD), the Raiders (self-explanatory) and the Falcons (yes, that was impressive). This is a mildly impressive stretch and means absolutely nothing for this year. Using this as your “Panthers will contend” argument would be like Boise State using a two-loss WAC season a few years ago as a “we deserve a BCS Bowl” shot. Or like me saying that if this article gets 10 Facebook shares I should start my own Grantland, named MattLand.
Seriously, all you did was cut one cornerback (Chris Gamble), add two meh ones (Drayton Florence, D.J. Moore) and sign some useless receivers. Why do you think you’ll improve so much?
Seriously, what was up with those receiver signings?
It’s no secret that Steve Smith is good, but brittle and old, and that even if he’s healthy, the Panthers need a complement to him. Brandon LaFell has shown a few LaFlashes, but he hasn’t been LaAnswer (that should’ve been Allen Iverson’s nickname!) yet, and after three seasons, it’s looking bleak.
So, you signed Domenik Hixon and Ted Fucking Ginn. Hixon has some talent, but he will hurt himself just watching Cam Newton lift weights, and the fact that his latest news update is: “Hixon (hamstring) has seen his stock slide during training camp, the Charlotte Observer reports,” should tell you all you need to know.
If you really need to elaborate on why Ted Fucking Ginn, Former Fucking Top-Ten Pick is so useless as a receiver that he cancels out all of his considerable kick-returning value, you need to mop up the stinky drool from your Buckeyes sweatshirt and seek help.
So, all of your eggs are still in Cam Newton’s basket.
If you argued that Cam Newton was the second-best pure athlete in the world behind LeBron James, I wouldn’t call you an idiot. He’s got that much potential. And by some (cherrypicked) measures, he had the best first two seasons of any quarterback in NFL history. He’s good.
But sadly, all he had last year was Steve Smith, some overpaid running backs and a borderline-passable defense. And the situation hasn’t gotten much better. So either Cam plays out of his mind, or you’re not going anywhere, Carolina.
The eggs in Cam Newton’s basket are crazy.
I’m not going to say that Cam Newton has a fake smile or is a bad leader or anything along those lines. I don’t know. All I know is he’s sort of insane, and that’s typically bad news.
Check out the possessor of all your eggs, throwing them to random people while on a segway.
Why you might not be screwed: Cam Newton, obviously. Insane people sometimes win Super Bowls: just ask that loud, murdering antler-eater. Cam’s got MVP potential. And believe it or not, your defense wasn’t awful last year. You were 12th in defensive DVOA. If you guys weren’t in your division, I’d totally say you weren’t screwed.
Actual season prediction: 10-6, lose in NFC championship. Fuck it, I really like you guys. I’ve been a sucker ever since I drafted DeShaun Foster in every fantasy league ever. Even this year. I’m worried about the division because I’m also high on the Falcons, Saints and Bucs, but you drafted a large Polynesian man. He’s gonna be a Star. You’re all Stars. Godspeed, and #CatTeamBrotherhood.