Rounding up predictions for Carolina's record in 2018

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How big of an impact will Norv Turner have on the offense? Can the defense build on a winning 2017 performance under Eric Washington? What's the over/under on the number of balls Cam Newton will give away post-touchdown?

The answer to these questions and ones like them can only come once the 2018 campaign gets underway. Of course, knowing this has never deterred fans and critics alike from attempting to the answer the most important question of all.

Where will the Panthers finish when all is said and done?

As is the case with every season, many have tried to predict the team's fate and, in the process, have provided plenty of bulletin board material for everyone to "not pay attention to."

With the Dallas Cowboys preparing to make their way to Bank of America Stadium in six days, let's take a look at what NFL writers around the internet are saying about how head coach Ron Rivera's squad will perform in 2018.

Prediction: 9-11 wins (David Newton, ESPN.com)

"The Panthers have had double-digit wins in three of the past five years, including an 11-5 record last season. They have upgraded the offense significantly since 2017, particularly at wide receiver with the additions of Torrey Smith and first-round pick DJ Moore. New offensive coordinator Norv Turner should help make Cam Newton more efficient. There's no reason to think the defense, with one of the best front sevens in the league, won't again be among the top 10. The NFC South will be strong again with New Orleans and Atlanta, but nine to 11 wins for Carolina is more likely than not."

Newton has spent the last five years covering the Panthers and is ready to see them capitalize on last season's 11-5 finish. His win total is currently the highest among the most notable predictions, although he hedged his bets by providing a three-game range with his prediction.

Prediction: 9-7 (Nate Davis, USAToday.com)

"New ownership. New offensive coordinator (Norv Turner), whose philosophy may not jell with Cam Newton's skill set immediately. Could be some growing pains ahead in a conference where there's little margin for error," writes Davis.

Davis doesn't believe the Panthers will make the playoffs. Davis also sees New Orleans and Atlanta, two of the team's division rivals, facing off in the NFC Championship.

Prediction: 8-8 (Tadd Haislop, Sportingnews.com)

"With New Orleans seemingly getting stronger and Carolina somewhat stagnant in transition, don't expect another three-team race like last season, when all three top NFC South teams finished within one game of each other. The Falcons will push the Saints, but the overall talent and depth in New Orleans is too strong." Needless to say, Haislop's forecast consists mainly of cloudy skies in Charlotte.

Prediction: 7-9 (John Breech, CBSSports.com)

Breech pegs Carolina to finish third in the NFC South behind the Falcons (11-5) and Saints (10-6).

Prediction: 7-9 (Andy Benoit, SI.com)

In addition to echoing Breech on the 7-9 finish, Benoit cites run blocking as "one glaring weakness [that] can keep an otherwise playoff-caliber team home in January." The team's recently finalized 53-man roster consists of 10 offensive linemen, ranging from veterans like Ryan Kalil and Trai Turner to versatile rookie Brendan Mahon.

The news of right tackle Daryl Williams returning to practice couldn't have come at a better time in light of reports that Ryan's brother Matt - who was placed on IR on Sunday - would be sidelined for at least the first half of the season. This injury is no doubt a blow but if Rivera can add Williams, a 2017 All-Pro lineman, back in the fold Week 1, things could get a lot easier a lot sooner for running backs Christian McCaffrey and C.J. Anderson.

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