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A young franchise based out of Charlotte, North Carolina, the NFL’s Carolina Panthers have emerged as a heavy contender in a tough NFC with playoff appearances to back their reputation as a punishing defense that can put on a show offensively as well. Two Super Bowl appearances, including their most recent in 2015, has left this club hungry for a chance to make it back to the big game and finally earn their parade with a Lombardi Trophy in tow.
The early Panthers teams broke away from the typical expansion team protocol by jumping out to a 7-9 record in 1995 before going 12-4 in their sophomore season. Under John Fox, the 2003 Panthers reached the Super Bowl, going up against the dynastic New England Patriots. The thrilling game ended with a last second field goal to seal the 32-29 heartbreaker in New England’s favor. This memorable battle is still looked at as one of the greatest Super Bowls of all time.
Teetering back and forth between mediocrity and dominance, the 2-14 record in 2010 was enough for executives in Carolina to turn the team over to a new coach and quarterback. Former player turned coach Ron Rivera was brought on to lead the team. He took on a team that had the first overall pick in that year’s draft and used it to select Auburn quarterback Cam Newton. This pivotal move would determine a great deal of the team’s future.
Building around Newton, the Panthers would improve their record in each of the next three seasons and would reach the Super Bowl in his fifth. The 2015 Panthers season saw the team jump out to a 14-0 start before entering the playoffs with a final regular season record of 15-1. Beating Seattle in the Divisional playoffs 31-24 and crushing the Arizona Cardinals 49-15 punched Carolina’s ticket for Super Bowl 50 against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. A hard-fought defensive struggle saw Denver come out on top 24-10.
Still stinging from the loss, Carolina is intent upon making it back to the big game. Having shaken off the Super Bowl hangover, the 2017 team managed a record of 11-5, before being bounced from the post season by their division rivals, the New Orleans Saints, in a 31-26 game. Rivera’s team is battling for a wild card berth in 2018 behind the surging division rival New Orleans Saints.
While Newton led the team in rushing last year, second year player Christian McCaffrey is on pace for a record breaking season in his sophomore campaign. Ryan Kalil and the offensive line have done their best to open up some big holes for him. Matt Kalil was placed in injured reserve ealy in the season with a knee injury. Devin Funchess and Christian McCaffrey put up the biggest numbers in receiving for the team and hope to repeat along rookie DJ Moore. Greg Olsen, the perennial Pro Bowler at Tight End, is always a reliable target in the passing game.
Defensively, Carolina has gone through a major transition, losing Charles Johnson, Star Lotulelei, and Kurt Coleman. However, there is still a ton of talent on the roster. From Kawann Short, and Julius Peppers up front to linebackers Thomas Davis and Pro Bowler Luke Kuechly, moving the ball on the ground will be no easy task. Adding the recently signed Dontari Poe to the defensive line makes them even stronger. James Bradberry, Mike Adams, and Captain Munnerlyn policing the backfield will have teams reluctant to toss it up to their receivers. Add to that equation Eric Reid, a former Pro Bowler, who has come over from San Francisco.
While this team may not have been around for very long, they have still compiled a list of great players that have come out of the tunnel on Sundays to represent them. Among the best to ever compete for the Carolina Panthers are Steve Smith, Luke Kuechly, Cam Newton, Thomas Davis, Greg Olsen, Julius Peppers, and DeAngelo Williams. Additional information about the Carolina Panthers franchise can be found by clicking here.