2016-NFL-Super Bowl 50 Preparation-Carolina Panthers season review

It’s been a historic season for the Carolina Panthers, who finished with a franchise-best 15 regular season victories and a third straight division championship. The Panthers couldn’t escape past the second round in the past two postseasons, but Ron Rivera’s team reached the Super Bowl for the second time in franchise history after knocking off the Seahawks and Cardinals at home.

Carolina (17-1 SU, 13-5 ATS) owned the third-best ATS record in the regular season at 11-5, while posting a 9-4 ATS record as a favorite of seven points or less. Twelve of 17 wins came by a touchdown or more, including victories against playoff squads Seattle, Arizona, Green Bay, Washington, and Houston. The defense stepped up in those wins against postseason teams, allowing 17 points or less three times, while giving up all 24 points against Seattle in the second half of its divisional round triumph.

Panthers’ quarterback Cam Newton tied for second in the NFL with a career-high 35 touchdown passes, while reaching the end zone 10 times on the ground. Newton tallied five more touchdowns in the postseason (three passing and two rushing), including a pair of ground scores in a 49-15 rout of Arizona in the NFC Championship. Although Newton eclipsed the 300-yard mark only four times this season, the Heisman Trophy winner cut down on the interceptions by getting picked off just twice in the last 10 contests.

Carolina’s defense finished sixth in the regular season, allowing 322.9 yards per game and 19.3 points per game. The Panthers scored six touchdowns on interception returns, including a pair of scores from All-Pro linebacker Luke Kuechly in the two playoff victories. Four players on the vaunted Carolina defense intercepted at least four passes this season, including a combined 13 from the secondary duo of Josh Norman andKurt Coleman.

The Panthers ranked second in the NFL in rushing offense with 2,282 yards in the regular season, while racking up an impressive 142.6 yards per game. Carolina finished tied with Buffalo and Kansas City for the most rushing touchdowns with 19, while running backJonathan Stewart compiled 989 yards in only 13 games (76 ypg). Tight end Greg Olsenpicked up his second straight season of at least 1,000 yards receiving by accumulating a career-best 1,104 yards on 77 catches. Olsen finished second among tight ends in the league in yardage, falling 72 yards short of New England’s Rob Gronkowski.

With Newton under center, the Panthers have been fantastic against AFC opponents by posting a 13-6-1 record since 2011. One of those losses came against the Broncos back in 2012, but Carolina went 4-0 SU and 3-1 ATS against the AFC this season. In three of those wins, the Panthers allowed 17 points or less, while the defense intercepted seven passes in the four interconference victories.