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Can The Panthers Win The NFC South For A Fourth Consecutive Time?

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The Carolina Panthers represented the NFC in the Super Bowl last season, but lost the game to the Denver Broncos. After an offseason that saw the team lose its two best cornerbacks, the question the Panthers face isn’t can they return to the Super Bowl? It’s can they win the NFC South for a fourth consecutive year. NFL odds currently have the Panthers as one of the teams favored to make the Super Bowl, but with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Atlanta Falcons, and New Orleans Saints expected to be improved this season, there are no guarantees the Panthers will win the division.

Last season, Carolina went 15-1, with their only loss coming against the Atlanta Falcons. Along the way to their franchise best season, the Panthers had a few things go their way. This time around, their chances of getting lucky bounces go their way are not very good.

The loss of Charles Tillman and Josh Norman could also haunt the Panthers this season because those two players made a lot of big plays in the secondary for Carolina. Tillman, who injured his ACL late in the season and missed their playoff run, recently said he if he plays this season, it will only be for the Panthers, but Carolina hasn’t said if it is interested in bringing the veteran back for one year.

Norman’s situation was one of the most bizarre stories in the offseason, with a lot of back and forth between both parties, after getting nowhere at the negotiation table, the Panthers rescinded the offer they made to Norman and he ended up signing with the Washington Redskins.

The Panthers addressed their secondary issues through the draft, but having two rookies starting in a division that has players like Drew Brees and Matt Ryan may come back to haunt Carolina.

Offensively, Carolina was the top scoring team in the NFL despite not having star wide receiver Calvin Benjamin for the whole season. With a healthy Benjamin back in the lineup, quarterback Cam Newton will have another weapon to play with, which should be a scary prospect for the defenses they play this season.

While Carolina’s offense is expected to be better than it was last season, the team’s defense, which was a strength last season, is likely going to be a liability if the secondary does not play as well as it did last year.

Even with the question marks on defense, the Panthers are still the team to beat in the NFC South, but their path to the top of the division will be more difficult this year. The Saints improved their offense in the offseason with the addition of players like Coby Fleener, who is expected to have a breakout season this year.

The Falcons improved last year, and are also expected to be better, even though they lost Roddy White in free agency. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the sleeper team in the division because they have a lot of young talent with players like Mike Evans and Jameis Winston, and could make a playoff push this season after coming close to making it last year, providing some competition for the Panthers.

However, the Panthers have one advantage over all their division rivals: Cam Newton.

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