Panthers aren't playoff contenders
Game tape and metrics reveal that Carolina has several key weaknesses
But as great as this streak has been for the Panthers, it is something of a mirage. A closer look at the metrics and game tape indicates that Carolina has a slew of weaknesses that make this team a potential playoff paper tiger.
Anemic downfield passing game
Prior to this season, Cam Newton could be viewed as a modern-day Brett Favre, a quarterback who seemed to go all out for the reward of downfield passes while throwing caution to the wind. This led to some prolific vertical totals such as when he ranked tied for third in vertical attempts in 2011, but it also led to a 4.2 percent bad decision rate (BDR) that ranked 31st in the league in that same campaign. BDR is a gauge of how often a QB makes a mental error that leads to a turnover opportunity for the opposing team, and that level is simply too high for most teams to overcome.
Since Newton's BDR was still an issue in 2012 (3.1 percent, ranked tied for 35th), new offensive coordinator Mike Shula seemed to make correcting this part of Newton's game a top priority.
At one level this approach has worked like a champ, as Newton's 2.1 percent BDR is easily the lowest of his career, but that improvement has come at a significant cost in vertical productivity.
To read more about why the Carolina Panthers aren't a playoff contender, you must be an ESPN Insider.
MORE NFL HEADLINES
- Seahawks rout Cards behind big-play offense
- Romo-led Cowboys smack Colts, win NFC East
- Romo as MVP? Unquestionably, Cowboys say
- Patriots escape Jets to pick up 1st-round bye