The Carolina Panthers entered 2016 with some solid performance behind them, but also with a significant defeat at the Super Bowl 50. For anybody who follows the NFL, the Super Bowl curse is something that is always in the back of the mind, and there were many who predicted that the panthers would struggle in last year’s season.

After coming from an impressive 15-1 record in 2015, they had what could be considered an abysmal 6-10 record for 2016. For many, this would have been justification that the Super Bowl curse is indeed a real thing.

So what’s coming up for the Carolina Panthers in 2017? Will we see yet another year mostly marked by losses, or will they start an upward trend as they seek to prove their doubters wrong? Let’s take a look at what the experts are predicting for Carolina this year.

Bleacher Report’s Richard Janvrin Predicts the Season

Richard Janvrin is known for providing insightful and sometimes accurate predictions in the NFL, so many fans will be watching his 2017 predictions closely. For the year, he actually expects the team to improve on their record, and has a record prediction of 10 – 6 for the season.

Like many fans of both the Panthers and of the sport as a whole, Janvrin was critical of the 2016 season, calling it ‘atrocious’. However, he does concede that many of their losses were close ones, which could signal that they have more potential than what has been shown. Players like Matt Kalil (offensive tackle) and Julius Peppers (linebacker) could make an impact this year, and it’s possible that the team could perform much better than it did in 2016.

Janvrin expects the Week 4 game against the patriots to be one of the toughest of the season, whereas their divisional games will be important to see if the team are going to be able to make a turnaround in 2017.

ESPN Predictions for the Carolina Panthers in 2017

ESPN is usually fairly accurate in their predictions, being able to draw on the experience of a number of expert panelists and even professional players when they form their predictions. For the leading sports media organization, David Newton is predicting the Panthers for 10 – 6 in 2017.

Newton thinks that the panthers will get off to a good start this season, and thinks their early game against the San Francisco 49ers will be a chance to prove their intent for the season, and it is likely one that the Panthers will be able to win. The trend of losses from last year should be easy to turn around, as Newton believes that the close losses weren’t a true indicator of the performance or ability of the panthers. The ESPN prediction even goes as far as claiming that the Carolina Panthers will make it to the playoffs this year.

Jonathon Jones Makes Predictions for Sports Illustrated

Jonathan Jones at Sports Illustrated released an extensive list of predictions for every team in the NFL, and unlike ESPN and Bleacher Report, he’s not quite as optimistic about the season ahead. He has the Carolina Panthers predicted for a 9 – 7 this year.

Jones predicts that a lot of the season depends on how well Cam Newton is able to repair his shoulder injury from last season. With all things going well, the Sports Illustrated prediction is that the panthers can play a good offensive game this upcoming season. Week 8 against the Buccaneers will be one of the most important games of the season and should be a chance for the team to show that they still have what it takes to dominate the South in the NFL.

Panther Record Prediction from Chris Vasile at Doc’s Sports

Vasile also recognizes the importance of Cam Newton for this season, noting that he didn’t have a lot of support around him in 2016. The final prediction from Doc’s Sports is a 9 – 7 for 2017, but Vasile is giving a cautious under/over for that score, leaning more towards the over, so this could be considered a 10 – 6 for the optimists.

Christian McCaffrey may be important as a talented running back, Curtis Samuel may also be able to make a difference as wide receiver. Vasile saw the team ‘unravelling’ last year, but as most would agree, their final record for 2016 was not exactly reflective of their abilities. Turning this right around for a 10 – 6 would be excellent for the team, and would illustrate that they still have the organizational and coaching ability that took them to the Super Bowl in 2015.

What Does Fox Sports Predict for the Season Ahead?

Out of all of the major sports news networks, Fox Sports has the most optimistic predicted record for the Carolina Panthers in 2017. Analyst Nick Wright expects the team to have a record of 11 – 6 by the time the season comes to an end.

Fox likes to be a bit more ambitious in how they make their early predictions, even calling the results on individual games. According to the network, the Panthers should be able to claim wins against teams like the 49ers, the Bills, the Eagles, and the Dolphins. Where will they struggle? It’s possible that their losses could come from their games against the Patriots, Buccaneers, Saints, Vikings, and the Packers. We’ll have to wait to see how the season goes to see how correct Fox Sports is with their predictions this year.

Early predictions are never set in stone, but they can offer a glimpse into the performance of a team, based on historical records and player movement. The Panthers are a team that are significantly better than their 2016 record would suggest, so seeing an improvement from them this year would not be a major surprise to anyone. They’re definitely one of the teams that are worth watching closely this year.