Forecast: Panthers go 8-8; Kalil's prediction won't happen

sfowler@charlotteobserver.comSeptember 9, 2012 

Sadly, Ryan Kalil’s famous prediction in The Charlotte Observer isn’t going to pan out.

Without telling anyone in the Carolina Panther organization, Kalil took out a full-page advertisement in The Observer in late July that began: “Why the Carolina Panthers will win Super Bowl XLVII” and ended with his signature.

It was one of those great, flamboyant gestures, and it certainly served Kalil’s purpose: to get the fan base excited and to publicly proclaim to his teammates how good he believes this team will be.

Unfortunately, the Panthers just aren’t good enough for a Lombardi Trophy just yet. I believe the Panthers will end up 8-8 this season and won’t make the playoffs.

In the Panthers’ special section that we always publish just before the NFL season begins, fellow sports columnist Tom Sorensen and I always make dueling predictions. This year you will undoubtedly prefer Tom’s prediction to mine – he believes Carolina will go 10-6 and will make the playoffs. And if they do, I’ll happily go along for the ride, for that will be a spectacular local story to cover.

But believe Tom at your own peril.

A short history lesson:

In 2011, as the Panthers came off a horrid 2-14 year, I predicted the Panthers would go 6-10, tripling their wins due to quarterback Cam Newton having a superb season. And they finished 6-10, mostly for that reason.

Tom’s prediction a year ago was so bad he says now that he doesn’t remember what it was. I was kind enough to look it up for him.

A year ago at this time, Tom picked the Panthers to go 3-13 in 2011.

So I’m not naturally a Panther naysayer. I’m a realist. I believe the Panthers can and will do big things at some point with the current nucleus of players. But I believe those big things are more likely to occur in 2013, when Newton is a year older and a year better and, more importantly, the Panthers have one more year to get their defense better.

That’s my main problem with the 2012 Carolina team: I’m just not sold on the Panther D yet. Defensive end Charles Johnson has the nickname of “Big Money” because of the huge contract he has signed, but he doesn’t always earn it. Sometimes he looks like Julius Peppers on a good day, and sometimes he looks like a guy who can be single-teamed and still not get where he needs to be.

And Johnson is generally the team’s best defensive linemen, although in the preseason it looked like Thomas Keiser was actually their best pure pass rusher.

I love the addition of Luke Kuechly at linebacker and Jon Beason is a heck of a player assuming he can stay healthy all year. But I am skeptical about both the front and the back of the Panthers’ defense – the defensive line and the secondary. Players like Greg Hardy, Captain Munnerlyn and Ron Edwards will have a lot to do with this defense and how well it does. Ron Rivera is a former NFL linebacker who specializes in defense, but I’m just not sure he has the horses yet.

The Panthers’ 2012 schedule also doesn’t help. It’s a beast.

The Panthers should be competitive in most every game. They will be exciting to watch every Sunday. And one of these years they are going to bottle lightning once again and make another run to the Super Bowl.

Just not this year.

Scott Fowler: sfowler@charlotteobserver.com; Twitter: @Scott_Fowler

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