Jonathan Jones, who used to cover the Carolina Panthers for the Charlotte Observer, took on the task of predicting the regular season records of all 32 NFL teams for his new employer, Sports Illustrated.
Jones also picks one game on every schedule that could determine if the team’s season is memorable or not.
Jones acknowledges that during his time covering the Panthers, he was “wrong more times than I was right when it came to predicting the games five months into the future.” And trying to predict the outcome of 256 games is much more difficult.
Jones also notes that beat writers tend to be optimistic about the teams they cover before the season begins. Still, Jones didn’t get carried away about the Panthers, the team he used to write about.
In a tight division, Carolina needs to reassert itself as the dominant team that won the NFC South three straight times.
Jonathan Jones, on the Panthers’ Week 8 game at Tampa Bay
Jones sees the Panthers finishing third in the NFC South, a division that is prickly to pick due to parity.
Jones sees the Panthers finishing 9-7, right behind Tampa Bay and Atlanta, teams he figures to finish at 10-6.
“The Panthers go as Cam Newton goes,” Jones writes.
How Carolina’s quarterback recovers from shoulder surgery and his protection at tackle will largely determine if the Panthers can rebound from a 6-10 season, according to Jones. Christian McCaffrey should give Newton some easy completions.
Jones sees the Bucs in Week 8 on the road as Carolina’s pivotal game. The Falcons visit the Panthers the following week.
“In a tight division, Carolina needs to reassert itself as the dominant team that won the NFC South three straight times,” writes Jones.
Follow Mike Reader on Twitter.