What are the best and worst-case scenarios for the Carolina Panthers in 2021?

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The Panthers haven’t made the playoffs since the 2017 season. Getting back there this year will require a lot of hard work and no small amount of luck. Carolina fans should know as well as anyone that anything can happen – as this has been the most inconsistent, up-and-down team in the NFL when it comes to win totals from season to season since the franchise’s inception.

The biggest factor that will determine whether this year is a success or not is how well new starting quarterback Sam Darnold performs. If he is able to capitalize on his potential and take advantage of the improved supporting cast he has here compared to New York, a winning record is definitely a reasonable goal.

Pro Football Focus recently outlined the best and worst-case scenarios for every team going into the 2021 season. If things tend to go right for the Panthers, they’re predicting a 10-7 record.

However, there’s always a chance that things won’t break their way. Whether it be a rash of injuries or Darnold continuing to flounder like the did with the Jets, we might be in for another third or fourth-place finish in the NFC South. PFF’s projected worst-case outcome for Carolina is a 5-12 record.

So, which one will it be?

It’s impossible to say at this early stage, but most likely the Panthers will fall somewhere between those two projections. Our best guess is that they’ll finish the 2021 season somewhere between 7-10 and 9-8. That may not be thrilling for fans, but it would be a significant step in the right direction after several five and six-win seasons.

In his two previous stops at Baylor and Temple, it took coach Matt Rhule three seasons to build competitive teams. If that trend carries over to the NFL, Carolina should be back in playoff contention by 2022.

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