Prediction: Deep roster will lead Panthers to victory

Adam Kreitzman


Cam Newton, Greg Olsen, Jonathan Stewart, Ryan Kalil, Trai Turner, Mike Tolbert, Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis, Josh Norman, Kawann Short. No, I’m not laundry-listing the names of players I know on the Panthers, but rather the absurdly high number of players, 10 to be exact, who earned Pro-Bowl honors from the Panthers’ roster.

The Panthers are locked and loaded and no one can stop them. The dominance on the defensive side of the football has been vital to the unparalleled success of the Panthers this season. Thomas Davis is having a career year, Luke Kuechly is his usual force to be reckoned with in the middle of the field, and Josh Norman has developed into a primetime cornerback, locking down top receivers week in and week out. The Panthers defense is a three-headed monster: it can stop the run with a healthy stable of linebackers and a fourth-ranked rush defense, it can disrupt the passing game with solid cornerbacks and an unrelenting sixth-ranked pass rush, and it can force turnovers, leading the league in the regular season with 39 takeaways. In other words, when it comes to the Panthers’ defense, you have to pick your poison.

In addition to a championship-caliber defense, the Panthers offense has executed an impressive turnaround under the guidance of offensive coordinator Mike Shula. Shula has helped to develop signal-caller Cam Newton into a pocket-passer, rather than a run-first quarterback. Don’t get me wrong, Newton is still a prolific runner, and his designed runs add an extra element to the offense. Shula’s offensive system has clearly worked and opened up the passing game, as Newton is the current MVP frontrunner. In addition to a revived passing game, the Panthers benefit from the presence of Jonathan Stewart, who has helped lead the Panthers’ second-ranked rushing attack. A workhorse back, Stewart displayed his big-play ability early on in the divisional round with a 59-yard scamper to set the stage for a 31-0 start by the Panthers. If Newton finds open space and can extend plays, it will be difficult to stop the Panthers’ offense, especially if they can establish the run.

Look for a close fourth-quarter finish to the Super Bowl, and as they have done all year, the Panthers will pull out a victory in the closing minutes to seal what will long be viewed as a historic season in the NFL.