The NFC South is wide open following the departure of Tom Brady. The New Orleans Saints with new quarterback Derek Carr are the favorites entering 2023, and many are intrigued by the improved Atlanta Falcons. But what about the Carolina Panthers?
The Panthers were the team that gave the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a run for their money in the division last year despite firing their head coach midseason, trading Christian McCaffrey and starting three different quarterbacks. Now that they have Frank Reich and No. 1 overall pick Bryce Young, could this franchise be on solid footing for the first time since the Cam Newton days? New Carolina veteran pass rusher Justin Houston believes the Panthers are going to shock those that are sleeping on them.
"I think we're gonna surprise a lot of people," Houston said, via ESPN. "The league is sleeping on us as a whole. I think we got a lot of talent here. So the biggest thing is putting this talent together. A lot of teams have talent, but it's hard to put everybody on the same page, but I think these guys are willing to work and do whatever it takes to be on the same page and I think we're heading towards the right direction."
Apart from adding a prospective franchise quarterback in Young, the Panthers also added some weapons in running back Miles Sanders, tight end Hayden Hurst and wide receivers D.J. Chark, Adam Thielen and Jonathan Mingo. The defense has some young playmakers too, in Derrick Brown, Brian Burns and Jaycee Horn.
Maybe the Panthers aren't a favorite to hoist the Lombardi Trophy at year's end, but they may be undervalued in this huge question mark of a division. According to SportsLine data scientist Stephen Oh's simulations, the Panthers win the NFC South 29.5% of the time -- a higher clip than the Falcons (19.8%).