With the NFL already through six weeks of the season and the seventh underway, we wanted to take a look at the state of each team in the NFC South. We have already covered the Atlanta Falcons, and next on the list in the New Orleans Saints upcoming opponents, the Carolina Panthers.
This past offseason saw the Panthers add former-Saints quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and wide receiver Keith Kirkwood. Additionally, Carolina signed LSU fan favorite Joe Brady to be their new offensive coordinator. Ahead of the season, some experts had the team pegged to finish last in the NFC South behind even the lowly Falcons. Through the first six weeks the have proven to be a capable and competitive football team.
All of this has been accomplished without the talents of running back Christian McCaffrey who suffered a high-ankle sprain in Week 2. He is expected to miss the upcoming matchup against the Saints in Week 7. So, how has Carolina found itself with a respectable 3-3 record through Week 6?
First and foremost, much of the Panthers’ success has to be credited to Bridgewater’s efficiency. Heading into the team’s Week 6 game against the Chicago Bears, Bridgewater led the league in completion percentage. The quarterback was able to stand in for Drew Brees last season and led New Orleans to a 5-0 record. Bridgewater has an underrated ability to manage team’s to a win. While that sounds like an insult, it really isn’t. He knows what it takes to win games, spread the ball around, and keep his team in the game so they can ultimately win. These exact qualities are why the Panthers signed the player.
In the same vein, the supporting cast around Bridgewater has been surprisingly fantastic this season. Receivers Robby Anderson and DJ Moore have already combined for more than 1,000 yards receiving. Additionally, backup running back Mike Davis has 481 yards from scrimmage and 5 touchdowns in McCaffrey’s absence. The offense has been efficient and has been able to keep up with teams the Los Angeles Chargers and Arizona Cardinals who boast a robust offense.
Finally, the Panthers are fielding the 11th best defense in the league this season. Their defense has performed adequately against the run, but they have been impressive in defending against the passing game. Carolina has allowed opposing teams just an average of 218 yards through the air. They have effectively eliminated big play opportunities for opposing offenses, which then allows the Bridgewater-led offense to methodically work their way down field and stay in the game.
Despite a 3-3 record, this Panthers team has proven they can play well on both sides of the ball and will be competitive against any team they face. This will be especially true as they play New Orleans on Sunday.