2018 NFL Over-Under Win Totals: The Panthers offense is an enigma again, and it's scary

For the first time under Ron Rivera, the Carolina Panthers chose to reboot the offense, letting long-time offensive coordinator Mike Shula go and bringing in Rivera's long-time friend Norv Turner, one of the great offensive coordinators ever to hold a playsheet. While Norv's pedigree is impressive, there are still concerns about how this will actually work for Carolina.

Not because of the coordinator, but because the idea of having Cam Newton, already too often under fire from opposing rushers, doing a bunch of deep drops behind a questionable offensive line is terrifying. Fortunately the Panthers decided to give Cam a new weapon, drafting D.J. Moore in the first round of the draft and drawing praise from Steve Smith for finding a new, um, Steve Smith. C.J. Anderson could end up being a massive addition as a complement to Christian McCaffrey.

There's a lot of pressure on this team: with a new owner taking over before 2018 (David Tepper is expected to be announced as the new owner after agreeing to pay $2.2 billion for the Panthers in the coming days/weeks), there might not be changes immediately, but a bad season from Carolina could mean total upheaval. Already, it's expected that Ryan Kalil and Thomas Davis will retire after the 2018 season. Greg Olsen signed a new contract but he was at least weighing his future this offseason. 

Defensively there's a lot to like from this team, even with Davis suspended four games. Luke Kuechly is arguably the best linebacker in football when healthy and it wouldn't be surprising to see Shaq Thompson break out this season. Kawaan Short disrupts on the interior and the addition of Dontari Poe is flying under the radar. The secondary has talent but it also has plenty of question marks. 

The neighborhood is tough, but Vegas likes what the Panthers are cooking with, because their 2018 NFL win total is set at 9 games

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Early Schedule Analysis 

This is a fairly friendly schedule for Carolina, with the Panthers opening up against the Cowboys in Week 1, another team that's rejiggering their offense. A road game against the Falcons and a home game against the Bengals gives way to a nightmarish Week 4 bye, but that's not a terrible start. After the bye they finish off their NFC East run with games against the Giants (home), Redskins (road) and Eagles (road). The Ravens and Buccaneers are back-to-back home games before the Steelers and Lions are back-to-back road games. That Steelers game is on a short week and a Thursday night. Carolina gets the Seahawks at home to close out November, then plays the Bucs and Browns on the road the next two weeks. Carolina closes out with the Saints (home), Falcons (home) and Saints (road). 

Why They'll Go Over

The Panthers have quietly been one of the more consistent teams in the NFC over the past several years, despite residing in a really tough division. Carolina's been to the playoffs in four out of the last five seasons, a testament to the job Ron Rivera's done, despite working for two different GMs -- in three different tenures! -- since he took over as Carolina's coach. So there's plenty of reason to believe they'll continue to win games at a nice clip in 2018. Any concerns about Turner could be overblown; there's actually a nice group of players who fit what he wants to do. Cam is a big, strong quarterback with a tremendous vertical arm. McCaffrey is an ideal air back for Turner's system and the Panthers have a top-shelf tight end in Olsen. Devin Funchess deserves more attention considering how he played after Kelvin Benjamin was traded last year. The defense was top 10 in DVOA the last two seasons and could easily be right there again. Holding serve against the division at home is hardly out of the question and getting to play the NFC East and AFC North is not a bad draw all things considered. 

Why They'll Go Under

The offensive line is just a problem and until we see how this offense is going to work, it's hard to definitely assume the offense will be a high-octane unit. Additionally, they're relying on a late free-agent addition in Anderson, plus McCaffrey, who did not look capable of being an every-down, between-the-tackles back last year. Funchess and Moore don't have to be explosive out of the gates this season. There are some injury risks on this team, with Olsen, Kuechly and Khalil all having missed time in recent years and all being older. Davis will be out for four games and that could be a big blow. The division is just going to be an extremely difficult stretch to navigate, particularly at the end of the year. 

The Pick

Initially when I looked at the Panthers schedule, I liked their chances of winning 10+ games. And now I'm not sure I love it. I think they start out pretty well, but they need to, otherwise they're going to be in a situation where road games against the Steelers and Lions are must-win situations. Ultimately I think Carolina will compete for the division title and compete for the wild card in the NFC, but I have too many questions and too many concerns about the division. Everyone can't win 10 games. 


CBS Sports Senior Writer

Will Brinson joined CBS Sports in 2010 and enters his seventh season covering the NFL for CBS. He previously wrote for FanHouse along with myriad other Internet sites. A North Carolina native who lives... Full Bio

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