The Carolina Panthers have never won a Super Bowl. They’ve been there, they’ve come close, but they’ve never actually won it. For what it’s worth, though, the Panthers were founded back in 1995, meaning that they haven’t had nearly as much as time as many other teams have to get that first Super Bowl victory. This year, there are a few obvious reasons to believe that Carolina is one of the most likely teams to wind up winning Super Bowl 50.
We can start with the 15-1 regular season record. Or, talk about the fact that they have the likely NFL MVP in Cam Newton, as well as one of the most talented defenses in the NFL. Essentially, there are plenty of reasons to believe in the Panthers and what they’ve done this season.
Newton is dancing his way into the hearts of America (or making opposing fans completely turn against him with his celebrating), and it almost seems as though the Panthers have become the “bad boys” of the NFL. Right up there with those New England Patriots and the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick duo.
Let’s take a look at the four biggest reasons why the Panthers will win the 2016 Super Bowl, and start it off with the king of dabbing himself.
1. Cam Newton
While previous seasons have seen Newton simply run over defenders and use his sheer physical abilities to overpower opposing defenses, 2015 was something different. Newton used his legs, and used them ridiculously effectively (10 rushing touchdowns and 636 rushing yards), but he was also a massive force with his arm as well.
Newton completed 59.8 percent of his passes this year for 3,837 yards and 35 touchdowns. Possibly the most impressive part, is that he tossed just 10 interceptions as well. His quarterback rating was the best of his career by over 10 points, finishing up at 99.4 on the year. Newton is legitimately unphased by pressure, as he had four comeback victories in 2015 alone.
The raw talent that Newton showed in his early years has now been paired up with the massive amount of talent that he flashed at times over the previous seasons. He’s a force and we aren’t sure if anyone in the entire NFL is going to be able to slow him down.
2. Carolina’s Domination Against Opposing Quarterbacks
When you look at the four remaining teams in the 2016 NFL playoffs, there’s one thing that obviously stands out that every team has. An excellent quarterback. Yes, Tom Brady and Carson Palmer are playing a bit better than Peyton Manning at this point, who’s dealing with plenty of injuries at this point, but each quarterback is still talented.
Fortunately for Carolina, that won’t be much of an issue. During the 2015 regular season, Carolina allowed just 21 passing touchdowns, while intercepting 24 passes. They were one of the best teams in the NFL against opposing quarterbacks, and were one of only two teams (the Cincinnati Bengals) to have more interceptions than touchdowns allowed.
Don’t expect Carolina to be concerned by facing any of these big-named quarterbacks, especially with a defense complete with Kuechly, Josh Norman, Thomas Davis and a group of multiple ball-hawks.
4. Jonathan Stewart’s New-Found Game
Yes, Stewart played in just 13 games this season, which resulted in him falling short of the 1,000 yard mark. With that said, he still made the 2016 Pro Bowl, finished up with 989 yards and had six touchdowns as well. If you don’t believe that Stewart has taken his game to another level, look no further than his play against the Seattle Seahawks in the divisional round of the 2016 playoffs.
Stewart rushed 19 times for 106 yards and two touchdowns, including a ridiculous 59-yard run to start the game for the Panthers. His numbers probably would have been even more exceptional if Carolina hadn’t begun playing a prevent offense, simply looking to avoid making mistakes in the second half of their game against the Seahawks.
Stewart is the real deal, and while he’s nearly 29 years old, he’s playing like one of the young guys in the NFL. Is he dealing with a sprained ankle? Sure. Is this playoff football and will he able to fight through it? He just did a week ago, and we saw how that turned out.
4. Josh Norman’s Impact on Games
While we mentioned Carolina’s ability to shut down opposing quarterbacks, Norman deserves to be in a category by himself right now. He’s proven to not only be one of the shutdown quarterbacks in the NFL, but he literally has made quarterbacks avoid looking in his direction at times this season.
When a player has that type of ability to get into a quarterback’s head, there’s no questioning the fact that his presence alone can change the game. It’s downright scary how talented Norman is, and even with many quarterbacks avoiding him this season, he still finished up the season with 56 combined tackles, four interceptions, 18 passes defensed, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and two touchdowns.
The man does a little bit of everything, and is going to be a key to keeping players like Palmer and/or possibly Brady and Manning quiet when he faces them.
Follow Jeff Smith on Twitter @JSM8ith.
All statistics courtesy of ESPN.com.