Carolina Panthers: USA Today’s Nate Davis Says 11-5


The USA Today football projections are out. Writer Nate Davis has taken the Carolina Panthers to finish 11-5 in the NFC South and win the division. Davis was nice enough to make the team the third seed in the playoffs and victims of a trendy St. Louis (Los Angeles?) Rams wild card entry. Davis has picked the Saints to finish second at 10-6 with the Falcons and Buccaneers far back at 4-12.

Davis does not go into too much detail about how he determined an 11-5 record for the Panthers, but he leaves some vital clues into his thinking.

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First he mentions the Panthers’ weaker schedule this year. He notes that the Panthers play only four playoff teams from last season this year. That would be Indianapolis, Dallas, Green Bay, and Seattle. I think it is fair to guess that those represent four of the five losses he is predicting. The fifth loss would likely be a split series with the Saints.

Second, it is clear he has no faith in the Atlanta Falcons. That has to mean a season sweep for the Panthers in those games. So there you have it, Davis believes the Panthers are a better than average team with the benefit of a weak schedule. That is why he has the Panthers losing to every other playoff team they face, including the Wild Card projected Rams.

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11-5 is not far off the other predictions that we have followed so far. Panthers commentator Eugene Robinson had the team going 12-4, probably with an eye to those same playoff level teams that Davis looked at. I had the Panthers going 10-6, because I do not believe that anyone will run away with the NFC South division. When the division is good, it’s a dogfight. When the division is bad, it’s a dogfight. (Note I am referencing fighter jet warfare, not formerly Michael Vick sponsored activity). You can find our writer Josh Powell’s feelings here.

The other difference that I have with Davis’ thinking is that I do not believe the Panthers’ season will be as clear cut as ‘beat the teams you’re supposed to beat.’ I think the Panthers will beat at least one of the four playoff teams they face. However they will also lose a game in the division that they probably shouldn’t.

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