Debating Points: Which Team Will Break Out In 2012?

We aren’t very close to September just yet, but it’s never, ever too early to make preseason predictions.

Today our Debating Points section will unveil PFG’s current 2012 breakout team prediction.

Let’s take a look at the Carolina Panthers.

The Panthers were the NFL’s worst team in 2010, as they poised a 1-15 record. They were awarded the first overall pick in the draft, and selected quarterback Cam Newton.

Newton had a phenomenal rookie campaign, as the former Auburn star tossed for over 4000 yards and rushed for 706 more. The signal-caller already possesses oodles of both NFL and team records.

The Panthers were 6-10 in 2011, but be prepared for a solid season this year.

Their offense will be nothing short of explosive, meanwhile their defense, led by head coach Ron Rivera, will continue their rebuilding process, as they look to improve from last year. In 2011, they were the 28th best overall defense in the NFL.

Expect them to draft defensively in the first round. They currently have the ninth overall pick. Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox of Mississippi State, a would-be immediate starter, should catch the Panthers’ eye. Other options include but are not limited to former Alabama cornerback Dre’ Kirkpatrick.

Kirkpatrick has had legal trouble as of late, however. He was recently arrested on a marijuana possession charge, according to Manatee County Sheriff Department spokesman Dave Bristow.

Cox is clearly the safe pick, but the Panthers may take a gamble and select Kirkpatrick.

Anyhow, the Panthers will undoubtedly seek defensive improvement this season and beyond.

Offensive improvement will also be evident, as Newton and his teammates will have more experience under their belt. They will be faster, quicker, smarter.

As long as they win a few divisional games, Carolina should be a playoff team. In one of the toughest divisions, the NFC South is unforgivingly talented featuring three other quality quarterbacks: Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, and Josh Freeman. Winning divisional games is a must.

If they win half of their divisional games, they very well may be looking at an eight- or nine-win season. Who knows? The Panthers may be able to punch in a Wild Card ticket to the playoffs.

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