As I am starting to project how teams might do in 2019, where they improved and which areas are still question marks for me, I came up with a few squads, who I think are tough to judge and could go a few different ways.
I chose three teams from each conference that I think have the biggest volatility, meaning the differential I could see in terms of their win-loss ratio. Some of these might be due to uncertainty at specific positions, while others are about explosive personalities or injury concerns.
Therefore, I did not include up-and-coming teams like the Browns and 49ers, who I think very highly of, and no teams that I expect to bounce back after bad 2018 seasons – like the Jaguars and Falcons.
So here are six times that I think will either boom or bust in the 2019 NFL season:
#6 Carolina Panthers
When you look at a team that has gone 7-8-1, 15-1, 6-10, 11-5 and 7-9 over the last five years, you already know you are in for a rollercoaster. When you see they were 6-2 before losing seven of their last eight games, that theory is only strengthened.
While Cam Newton has not come anywhere close to that MVP season in 2015, when the Panthers met the Broncos in the Super Bowl, he is the biggest factor in their success. Usually it’s about his attitude, as you can see the team fluctuate depending on if he is dabbing and dancing around compared to if he plays with his head down and no energy.
Now health plays a huge role, as you saw the Panthers QB fall off towards the end of the season with a banged-up shoulder. We have seen snippets of his modified throwing motion, coming more over the top, which could benefit him since I always thought being more of an arm-thrower hurt his ability to alter speed and rotation of the ball.
Either way, Cam definitely has one of the best dual-threat running backs in the league lining up to him. When the organization drafted Christian McCaffrey a couple of years ago, they wanted to give their quarterback a quality option out of the backfield and I would argue Run CMC is the premiere receiving back in the game all-around.
However, while there is definitely talent at the other skill-positions with D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel, there aren’t a lot of proven playmakers out there and the offensive line still have some question marks, as they drafted more of a developmental tackle and have three guys best suited to play right tackle.
Defensively, that team is loaded in the front seven with the additions of first-round pick Brian Burns and Gerald McCoy to go with what they already had, but they will be switching to a 3-4 base front, which nobody really played in on that roster, and Eric Reid is by far the most experienced guy in their secondary.
This team could easily win double-digit games, but if Cam isn’t fully healthy and teams can take advantage of some of those secondary members, they could also finish below .500 once again.