The Carolina Panthers lost again to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday (Jan. 1), guaranteeing the team receives a better pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. The 17-16 loss was an ugly microcosm of a lost season for the defending NFC champions. The Panthers now finish the season with a 6-10 record, clinching last place in the NFC South for the year. A last-place finish wasn’t a prediction that any of the NFL experts made, but should please fans of every other team in the division.
As previously reported by the Inquisitr, the latest NFL Draft order looks pretty good for the Panthers as well. That is a small consolation to fans who had been hoping to see the Panthers in the playoffs again this season. Now, Panthers fans are relegated to rooting for the San Diego Chargers against the Kansas City Chiefs later on Sunday. If the Chargers can beat the Chiefs, then the Panthers could move up another slot in the draft order.
In the Week 17 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, quarterback Cam Newton threw three interceptions, including one that was taken back for a touchdown. Newton finishes the season with just 19 touchdown passes to go along with 14 interceptions. Those stats aren’t even close to the 35 touchdowns and 10 interceptions he posted during the 2015 NFL season. He wasn’t considered to be in the MVP conversation this year, and after struggling to stay consistent, it might be a while till he can join the ranks of the elite quarterbacks again.
The biggest downfall for the Carolina Panthers in 2017 may have been the inability of the team to compete with divisional rivals. The Panthers finished just 1-5 against NFC South opponents, including two losses each to the Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Panthers split two games against the New Orleans Saints, but it wasn’t enough to stay competitive in the conference. The Saints will also emerge from the upcoming NFL Draft with a top selection, possibly even a replacement at quarterback to improve over the long-term.
Many NFL analysts had predicted that the Carolina Panthers had the depth to return to the NFL Playoffs and that Cam Newton could again lead them deep into the postseason. That didn’t even come close to happening, as the Panthers folded against any team that looked good this season. That includes an embarrassing blowout at the hands of the Seattle Seahawks, where the Panthers lost 40-7 to basically get eliminated from postseason contention. Now it may be time for the franchise to rebuild the roster.
To wrap up this season, the Panthers were able to score 369 points on offense, putting them ahead of potential playoff teams like the New York Giants, Detroit Lions, and Seattle Seahawks. On defense, though, the Panthers allowed 402 points for the year. That number ranks among the worst in the entire NFL, showing that there are huge problems that will need to be addressed during the off-season. It’s possible that the team will target an elite defensive player with that high first-round pick as well as with several later selections.
This wasn’t how fans wanted to see the season turn out after the Panthers played in the 2016 Super Bowl. Coming up just short of the Denver Broncos was supposed to energize the team to get right back to the championship. Losing to the Broncos in Week 1 of this season didn’t help matters and it never seemed like the team fully recovered after that rematch. At times it even seemed like Cam Newton was just going through the motions this year. Now it’s time to re-tool in the hopes that the Carolina Panthers can come back as an improved team in the 2017 NFL season.
[Featured Image by Joe Robbins/Getty Images]