Sports Illustrated’s team of NFL writers (also known as the MMQB) released their predictions for the upcoming football season on Tuesday.
So, what do they think of the Panthers?
Of the 10 writers polled, only two picked Carolina to make a return to the playoffs in 2017. Jenny Vrentas has the team winning the NFC South and taking the No. 4 seed in the NFC playoffs over the Super Bowl runner-up Atlanta Falcons. However, she then chose the team to lose to the No. 5 Dallas Cowboys in the wild card round.
Chris Burke was more optimistic, giving the team the No. 3 seed in his NFC playoffs. Green Bay his top seed and Dallas holds the second spot.
Burke even has the Panthers beating the Arizona Cardinals and the Cowboys en route to a second NFC Championship Game appearance in three years. He then has the team losing to Green Bay, his choice to fall in the Super Bowl to the New England Patriots.
“I could see any of at least eight NFC teams reaching the Super Bowl,” Burke wrote. “That conference is far more wide open than the AFC.”
But while only two writers picked Carolina to make the playoffs, several did count on individual Panthers to win awards.
Specifically, half of them – Vrentas, Ben Baskin, Greg Bishop, Jacob Feldman and Tim Rohan – think Panthers rookie running back Christian McCaffrey will end up as the Offensive Rookie of the Year. Other selections were former UNC quarterback and No. 2 overall pick Mitch Trubisky (Chicago), plus the only running back taken before McCaffrey in April’s draft, No. 4 selection Leonard Fournette (Jacksonville).
“Christian McCaffrey will be among the most versatile weapons in the NFL,” Baskin wrote, “as long as Cam Newton figures out how to use him.”