The 2015 NFC champions had a less than palatable start to their season, losing five of their first six games before their Week 7 bye and sliding to the bottom of the NFC South. Some losses were close—one point to the Broncos, three points to the Saints and the Buccaneers—and others were by double-digits, but all led to the same realization: these are not the same swagger-filled Panthers that reached the Super Bowl last season. The secondary has seriously struggled in the post-Josh Norman era, giving up an average of 367 yards per game, and QB Cam Newton is taking far too many hits and lacking protection from his offensive line, something he finally complained about after a Week 8 game against Arizona.
After that big Week 8 win against the Cardinals, it looks like (maybe?!) Carolina might be on the upswing. The Panthers kicked off that game with a fumble returned for a touchdown and turned that into a dominant 30–7 lead that ended with a 30-20 win. And the second-half schedule is very winnable—for the Panthers team that played in Week 8, at least.