Why The Panthers Won’t Win Super Bowl 51


After falling one game short of hoisting the Vince Lombardi Trophy for the first time in franchise history, reigning NFL MVP Cam Newton and his Carolina Panthers are hoping to get another crack at it in Super Bowl 51, which will be played in Houston.

Throughout the regular season, Carolina grabbed what felt like every single headline and for good reason.

Before losing to division rival Atlanta in late December, the Panthers were undefeated with a record of (14-0), but behind the leadership of quarterback Matt Ryan and wide receiver Julio Jones, the Falcons were able to end Carolina’s pursuit of perfection.

However, when examining the big picture, losing to Atlanta didn’t matter because Carolina still earned home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and they didn’t take it for granted.

Carolina cruised to Super Bowl 50, but they ran into a team destined to win it all.

Not only was it the perfect way for future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning to go out, it was the finish Denver’s defense needed to be mentioned as one of the best of all-time.

With that being said, Carolina led the NFL in points per game (31.3) a season.

Also, Carolina scored 31 and 49 points in both of their playoff games leading up to the Super Bowl respectively, but could only manage 10 against the vaunted Denver defense.

Nonetheless, the expectation for the 2016 version of the Panthers is Super Bowl or bust.

Following the loss to Denver, head coach Ron Rivera delivered an interesting message to his ball club. 

“I pointed to Denver right away and I said to our guys, ‘You see that group? Two years ago, they got the (expletive) kicked out of them against Seattle (in a 43-8 loss in Super Bowl XLVIII), and look at them now,’” Rivera said.

“And I said, ‘I promise you, a big part of the reason is they were a young football team, and guys, we are a young football team. This can be a great learning experience and we’re going to learn from it.’ That’s what I’m trying to do.”

Considering Newton was able to have a season in which he earned MVP honors without his top receiver, the expectation is for him to only get better with Kelvin Benjamin back.

Following a stellar rookie campaign, Benjamin went down with an ACL injury during training camp around this time last year.

Benjamin missed the entire season, but he’s ready to return back to form.

“I just want to be that spectacular player when my name is called,” Benjamin stressed. “I want to be able to go up and get the ball, be a big red-zone threat, help out with the blocking and, really, just win.”

Newton also has Ted Ginn Jr., Corey “Philly” Brown and Devin Funchess at his disposal, so it’s safe to say we shouldn’t worry too much about this team from an offensive standpoint.

Carolina’s secondary is a different story, however.

Now, overall, we expect Carolina to have one of the top defensive units in the league again, but the big elephant in the room is missing.

Josh Norman.

Norman is one of those unique players you don’t fully replace, you just hope you can function properly without him.

For the long-term, Carolina’s front office felt it was best to let him walk, but they’re going to feel the impact of losing him in the short-term.

When it comes to playoff football, you’re going to face elite quarterback such as Aaron Rodgers, Carson Palmer and Russell Wilson from the NFC and without that true shutdown cornerback in your back pocket, this is a major hole those aforementioned signal callers will try to exploit.

Fortunately, Carolina has arguably the best front seven in the league, but is that enough to mask the Norman loss?

It’s yet to be seen, but one thing’s for sure, everyone in the NFC will be gunning for Carolina and at this time, we’re not sure if this Panthers team is ready to embrace having a target on their back.


About Mark Gunnels

Mark Gunnels

Mark Gunnels is an NFL columnist for Football Insiders. He has several years of experience covering the NFL and NCAA football. He's the radio color commentator for Lincoln University football. Mark's work has been featured on Sports Illustrated, Fox Sports and Yard Barker.