In Cam Newton's two NFL seasons, the Panthers have gone 6-10 and 7-9. This offseason, the team fired long-time general manager Marty Hurney and replaced him with David Gettleman, which means there's a very real chance that coach Ron Rivera, who was hired in 2011, might not be back in 2014 if Carolina has another losing season.
The good news: Newton thinks this is the year the Panthers put everything together and make a playoff run
“I really do believe it,” Newton said during an appearance on WFNZ (via PFT). ”I'm not just saying anything because fans want to hear it. I'm not saying just anything because it is good for my health. And I won't say anything that comes through my teeth that I really don't believe in. I believe in my players. I believe in my offensive line that they are going to give me time to be successful. And I believe that I have enough weapons at the wide receiver position that they are going to catch the football. There's no question about it in my mind. I have an unbelievable running back corps.”
Yes, we know: This time of year, every NFL player -- except, maybe those in Oakland -- believe they're part of a playoff team. But only organizations with legitimate franchise quarterbacks have a realistic shot of making that happen. In that sense, the Panthers qualify, even if recent history suggests that the postseason is a long shot.
It's encouraging news, even if the Falcons and Saints are the favorites in the NFC South, and questions remain about the Panthers' defense (although early signs are good).
In case you're wondering, none of the CBSSports.com experts picked Carolina to finish higher than third in the division (and two -- including us -- have them finishing last).