While the summer season brings much enjoyment to the average person, for an NFL fan, it represents a desolate wasteland where Sundays just aren't quite as vibrant as in the autumn months. However, with each passing day, we inch closer to the beginning of the 2023 NFL season, which officially kicks off on September 8 this year.
Whether you've had your favorite team's tweet notifications turned on all summer or if you've decided to tune out all football news entirely, you'll be able to learn everything you need to know about your team going into the 2022-23 season right here.
In today's article, I'll be discussing the Carolina Panthers.
I'm working on season guidebooks for all 32 NFL teams, which will all be released within the next few weeks. To check out another team's guidebook, click here:
2021 Season Recap
Carolina got out to a really good start in 2021 and were one of the last teams in the league to lose a game. But after their 3-0 start, they managed to win only two of their final 14 to finish with a 5-12 record for the season.
The Panthers were riddled by injuries and inconsistency at quarterback, causing them to have one of the worst offenses in the league. Their defense was better and kept them in many of their games, but it wasn't enough to make up for what they lacked in the scoring department.
Significant Roster Moves
The biggest move the Panthers made in the offseason was acquiring QB Baker Mayfield from the Browns. He'll compete with Sam Darnold for the starting job in Week 1, and most people think he'll ultimately get the first crack at QB1 in the season opener.
Carolina's offense is largely unchanged other than the addition of Mayfield, as most of the turnover came on the defensive side of the ball. Xavier Woods will start at strong safety and Cory Littleton and Damien Wilson will attempt to replace the pieces lost at linebacker in Jermaine Carter and Haason Reddick.
2022 Draft Class
Carolina had six selections in this year's draft and split them equally between the offense and defense. They looked to improve upon the offensive line, taking tackle Ikem Ekwonu with the 6th overall pick and guard Cade Mays later in the 6th round. The Panthers also decided to grab QB Matt Corral, who had an extremely impressive season under Lane Kiffin at Ole Miss in 2021. Corral will join the quarterback competition, though he likely has a long way to go before he'll be able to work his way into the starting lineup.
The Panthers will take on the NFC West and the AFC North to go along with their six divisional games. Their other three opponents are the New York Giants, Denver Broncos, and Detroit Lions. With an opponent prior season win percentage of .512, Atlanta has the 12th hardest schedule in the NFL.
Carolina's lone primetime game is a Thursday night game versus Atlanta.
The Panthers return 13 of their 22 offensive and defensive starters from a season ago, which is below average among all teams in the league. Most of the offensive change came on the offensive line, so Panthers fans will be familiar with most of the weapons Baker Mayfield will have to work with in Week 1. Though they've had to replace some guys on defense, they should be decently effective again in 2022.
Matt Rhule enters his third season as head coach of the Panthers. Phil Snow will take on his second season as defensive coordinator with the Panthers, while Ben McAdoo and Chris Tabor will begin their first seasons in Carolina under their respective roles.
Oddsmakers have set the regular season win total for Carolina at 6.5 games. As of right now, the Panthers are the third most likely team to win the NFC South and the 13th most likely team to win the whole NFC. At +13000 to win the 2023 Super Bowl, they are tied for 24th among all teams in the league.
Bucket Squad Predictions
While you would think Carolina will show some improvement in 2022 as some of their players develop, it was hard for me to find that many wins for them as I went through their schedule. I don't think the addition of Baker Mayfield is going to be as significant as some people think, and that's coming from someone who thinks he was treated very unfairly by Cleveland. It's also hard to trust the Christian McCaffrey will stay healthy all season, and the Panthers aren't nearly as good when he's not on the field.
For those reasons, I'm predicting the Panthers to go 5-12 again in 2022 and finish ahead of only the Falcons in the NFC South. I don't really think Baker Mayfield will prove me wrong, but I kind of hope he does.
What do you think? Will Carolina be better or worse than I'm projecting? What offseason moves made by the Panthers surprised you the most? Leave a comment down below and be sure to check the "NFL" section of the website for more NFL team guidebooks as I finish them.
Written by Nick Swatson
Expert Nick Swatson discusses all the news, predictions, and outcomes surrounding the NFL.