2016 Offers Surprises for Last Year’s Dominant Teams

Special guest writer, new to Wayniac Nation —

We’re more than halfway through the season and that’s long enough to talk about what some of the biggest surprises have been so far. Last year saw a franchise-best season from the Carolina Panthers, but the team is looking like a shell of its former self. The squad boasting last year’s MVP at quarterback is struggling on both sides of the ball and has failed to develop any momentum.

The Panthers’ performance has easily been one of the biggest surprises of the season. They were utterly dominant last year, going 15-1 and ultimately reaching the Super Bowl before being stopped by the incredible Denver Broncos defense. Fast forward to now and, as of this writing, the Panthers are 3-6 and sit at last place in the NFC South. That’s a far cry from the same time last year, when the team was undefeated.

The lackluster performance has made it so that it’s not only a repeat trip to the Super Bowl that seems improbable, but SB Nation says that a trip to the playoffs is also a long shot. While few people expected the Panthers to repeat the same banner year from last season, there weren’t many that could have possibly predicted such a precipitous fall from grace.

The Panthers began this season with a 1-5 record. Ironically enough, the last team to have such a poor start after reaching a Super Bowl was the Carolina Panthers back in 2004, according to Fox Sports. The slow start to the 2004 season could largely be chalked up to injuries, but this year just isn’t the same case. With star wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin returning from his own injury, many expected Newton to perform even better given that he had more offensive weapons at his disposal. But that’s simply not happening

The return of Benjamin was expected to make a huge impact on the offense but has failed to materialize the way fans (and fantasy owners) have predicted. Fantasy sports trace their origins back to the ’80s, per Gambling.com, but the advent of daily fantasy has placed an even higher value on individual production. As a result, the wide receiver has come under an incredible amount of scrutiny. Those who drafted Benjamin high in their leagues have been in an interesting place this year, to say the least. The wideout has failed to impress, but also hasn’t been bad enough to cut loose.

Much of the Panthers’ misfortune can be blamed on the fact that Cam Newton is getting his brain scrambled in nearly every game. The team’s offensive line is leakier than an old, rusty bucket and has done a terrible job of protecting their quarterback. Newton is a once in a generation talent, and if Carolina can’t do a better job of keeping him safe, we could see a potentially bright career cut drastically short due to injury.

At this point, it’s going to take a miracle to even make the playoffs. The team basically needed to win its next 10 straight games following the bye week to have a shot. Sadly, a loss to the Chiefs cuts the Carolina comeback short and the Panthers offense that was so dominant in 2015 has now been utterly declawed.

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