The Panthers rose up and continued their domination of the NFC South. No team had ever won back to back NFC South titles and the Panthers have won 3 in a row now. Cam Newton took his game to the next level and fulfilled his promise as a #1 overall pick. Despite Kelvin Benjamin going down in the preseason last year, Cam Newton made the Panthers the highest scoring team in the NFL and the #11 overall offense in the NFL. Newton really had to carry the team with unproven wide receivers and only Greg Olsen as a target he could trust. The defense was ranked #6 in the NFL led by Luke Kuechly and Josh Norman.
In the offseason the Panthers let Norman walk and it will be interesting to see how the secondary reacts this upcoming season. Furthermore, Charles Tillman retired from the NFL and his veteran leadership will be missed by the Panthers locker room. The NFC South does not have any other team to really contend with the Panthers this season. New Orleans will be consistent on offense with Brees but that defense needs development with their youth. In Tampa Bay, the Buccaneers hope their youth matures faster than expected with a potentially explosive offense led by Winston, Evans, and Doug Martin. Lastly, the Falcons hope to not falter at the end of the season like they did last year. Atlanta started 5-0 before fading and missing the playoffs altogether. Matt Ryan needs to take advantage of the new weapons like Sanu and hope that second-year wide receiver Justin Hardy takes the next step. Devonta Freeman was a nice surprise for the Falcons and Julio Jones lit up the league last year with 1,800 + receiving yards. If Dan Quinn can get that defense to resemble his defenses in Seattle then Atlanta will take a leap forward but not enough to catch the Panthers.
Carolina has a quarterback who can run it in and a solid starter in Jonathan Stewart. The Panthers were the #2 rated rushing attack and it helped their defense stay fresh. Carolina took the ball away 39 times to lead the NFL in 2015 and that gave Cam Newton and the offense many short fields to take advantage of. I think it is a no brainer the Panthers repeat as NFC South champs.