The Carolina Panthers, after a 15-1 2015 regular season campaign are heading into Week 12 with a meager 4-6 record. Much of their struggle can be attributed to the defensive side of the ball. They lost star cornerback Josh Norman and have since then become one of the worst passing defenses in the National Football League.
As of Week 11, the Panthers passing defense ranks 28th in the NFL with opposing quarterbacks averaging a 67.1 completion percentage, 272 passing yards, and a total Quarterback Rating (QBR) of 95.5 in a single game against them. In other words, opposing offenses are doing virtually whatever they want against the Panthers. In Week 4, they took on the Atlanta Falcons which would result in a 48-33 loss. Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones set a franchise single-game receiving mark racking up 300 receiving yards. Also, his quarterback Matt Ryan set a franchise single-game passing mark with 503 passing yards on that afternoon as well. The Panthers defense has to step up if they want to make the playoffs.
Their offense has also taken a step back since last season. In 2015, the Panthers averaged 31.3 points per game, highest in the NFL. This year, on the other hand, they’re averaging only 24.4 points per game, 12th in the NFL. While that number may seem decent to the ear, remember how poor their defense is playing this year, giving up 24.6 points per game, as opposed to 19.3 last year. So, this year they are (-.2) in points when last season they boasted a (+12) point differential.
So what does that mean? Well, the Panthers rank 20th in the league in terms of red zone trips per game with 3.1. So, they’re doing a whole lot of nothing. They’re either settling for field goals or just punting back to the other team. Also, they are digging themselves into a hole from the start of the game. It’s really hard to score points when your offense isn’t on the field, especially with a defense like theirs. In first quarter time of possession, the Panthers rank 27th in the league, having the ball a little over 44% of the time in that span.
The Panthers either have to get much, much better on the offensive side of the ball or they need to find a way to stop opposing offenses if they want even a chance at the playoffs this season. They have three main problems to address: they have no pass rush, the offensive line is slacking, and quarterback Cam Newton hasn’t been an MVP-type player this year. Newton put it best in an article from AL.com saying, “We need to win and at a rapid pace—fast.”
Now, since their 1-5 start to the season, they’ve done a pretty good job of doing just that. They’re 3-1 and would be 4-0 if they hadn’t blown a 17-point lead against the Kansas City Chiefs. So, they’re heading into Week 12 with a 4-6 record, two games out of first place in the NFC South. Will they right the ship and finish the season strong or will the post-Super Bowl woes continue?