Carolina Panthers: 2013 NFL Midseason Report
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Few teams in the NFL are hotter than the Carolina Panthers, who closed out the first half of the season with four straight wins and five in six games.
But you can't dismiss the 1-3 start and a combined 8-33 record by their opponents. You also can't dismiss that the Panthers (5-3) have soundly defeated these opponents by an average score of 33.6 to 9.6, and that, if the regular season ended today, they would be in the playoffs as the No. 6 seed.
So, despite the current streak, the overall record is a B-minus. Here are the midseason grades by position:
GRADING THE CAROLINA PANTHERS
|Quarterbacks||For three weeks, Cam Newton was the hottest quarterback in the league, completing 77.3 percent of his passes and compiling a passer rating of 130.3. His overall completion percentage of 64.9 and passer rating of 97.6 are well above his average the first two seasons. Take away a four-turnover game against Arizona and he'd have an A.|
|Running Backs||DeAngelo Williams and Mike Tolbert, with help from Newton, had this team eighth in the league in rushing through seven games. Now the Panthers add Jonathan Stewart, who averaged 4.8 yards a carry in his debut against Atlanta.|
|Wide Receivers||This no longer is Steve Smith and the untouchables, as in nobody else touched the ball. The emergence of Ted Ginn Jr. with an improved Brandon LaFell has made this a triple threat even if they aren't well known.|
|Tight Ends||Put Greg Olsen on New England or New Orleans and people would be calling him one of the best tight ends in the NFL. He might be anyway, second only to Smith on the team in receptions with 34.|
|Offensive Line||Considering the number of injuries and question marks coming into the season, this would be an A if you were grading on a curve. We're not, though, so you can't ignore 22 sacks.|
|Defensive Line||These guys are a big reason the Panthers rank second in the NFL against the run. The addition of rookie tackle Star Lotulelei has made ends Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson even better. If they had a few more sacks, it would be an A-plus.|
|Linebackers||It's hard to imagine a group playing better than Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis and Chase Blackburn. Davis and Kuechly are 1-2 on the team in tackles, and Blackburn has played well enough to make Jon Beason expendable.|
|Secondary||This was supposed to be the weakness of the defense -- and the entire team. A unit that gave up a league-worst 66.8 completion percentage a year ago is giving up 67.1 percent this year. But it's not allowing the big plays and touchdowns of late.|
|Special Teams||Place-kicker Graham Gano gets much of the credit here. He is 12-for-12 on field goals, including 4-for-4 from 50 yards or longer. He is 24-for-24 on PATs and among the league leaders at having kickoffs not returned.|
|Coaching||Ron Rivera got the blame for the team's 1-3 start, so he should get the credit for this 4-0 run. Changing his mentality on fourth-and-1 has been huge. The Panthers have converted five of seven such opportunities in winning five of their past six games. He has this team believing it can win.|
WEEK 2 - FRIDAY 8/8
2013 NFC SOUTH STANDINGS
- Nike Women's Away Game Jersey Carolina Panthers Cam Newton #1
Play Podcast The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department has released audio recordings of the 911 calls and radio dispatch concerning Panthers DE Greg Hardy's arrest.
Play Podcast Panthers DE Kony Ealy covers his fit with Carolina, his role with the squad, his areas for improvement, playing with Michael Sam at Missouri and more.
Play Podcast NFL Films' Greg Cosell covers the selections of Greg Robinson, Aaron Donald, Johnny Manziel, Brandin Cooks, Kelvin Benjamin and Teddy Bridgewater in the first round of the draft and more.