The Panthers' 2016 season danced to the tune of a dysfunctional 1-5 start. A Week 7 bye wasn't enough to forge a turnaround and the Panthers ended the year with a 6-10 record after their Super Bowl appearance in 2015.
Key Additions: DE Julius Peppers, T Matt Kalil, CB Captain Munnerlyn
Key Losses: Defensive coordinator Sean McDermott, S Tre Boston, WR Ted Ginn Jr., WR Philly Brown
Top Draft Pick: WR Curtis Samuel
Head coach Ron Rivera watched as his team was unable come up clutch in crunch time as the Panthers lost six times in games that were decided by three points or fewer. Just two seasons ago, Cam Newton was the engine that fueled the unrelenting Carolina offense earning MVP honors. Last season, however, was a major setback for the seventh-year quarterback. Plagued with injuries, Newton registered a career-worst 75.8 QB rating and his number of total carries and rushing yards were his lowest totals since his rookie season. On the bright side, Greg Olsen remains one of the NFL's best tight ends, hauling in the second-most yards (1,073) at the position, and wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin bounced back from an ACL injury that shelved him back in 2015 to pull in 14.9 yards per catch on 63 receptions.
Although the offense suffered from its fair share of skirmishes, the defense continued to orchestrate plays on a consistent basis. The Panthers ranked second in total sacks while tying second for most forced fumbles and interceptions. However, the team's defensive coordinator, Sean McDermott, is now the head coach of the Bills. During the offseason, the Panthers inked defensive tackle Kawaan Short to a long-term deal and brought back future Hall of Fame defensive end Julius Peppers and cornerback Captain Munnerlyn.
A record reversal may be in store for the Panthers along the shoulders of a healthy Newton. Can the Eagles win one before heading home for a three-game homestand? The Week 6 showdown will take place Thursday, October 12 at 8:25 p.m. at the Bank of America Stadium.