Last year was supposed to be the start of an NFC dynasty. The Carolina Panthers were led by the most dynamic player in the league and had one of its most fearsome defenses. In an era in which fly-by-night teams ride a wave of good fortune to the Super Bowl and then collapse the following year thanks to higher expectations, a tougher schedule, attrition and a decline team chemistry (with great success comes great contract demands), Carolina was destined to be an outlier. It wasn’t a question. There was never any expectation Carolina wouldn’t put up a double-digit win season, win the NFC South and be one of the two or three Super Bowl favorites entering January and then repeat the following process through Newton’s prime and beyond.
Fast forward six weeks and, by record, the Carolina Panthers are one of the three worst teams in the NFC. (Carolina, Chicago and San Francisco all share matching 1-5 records.) Baffling doesn’t begin to cover it.