The Best Seasons in Carolina Panthers’ History

Despite entering with hope for a revival, the 2023 season was one of the worst in franchise history for the Carolina Panthers.

Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young had an up-and-down rookie campaign with 11 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, and 62 sacks. The Panthers ranked 31st in points scored and 29th in points allowed.

Frank Reich’s reunion with the franchise was cut short during his first season as coach. Reich was fired in November after a loss to the Tennessee Titans dropped the Panthers to 1-10. The Panthers finished with a league-worst 2-15 record. This is the sixth straight season the Panthers have missed the NFL playoffs. 

Panthers fans may be upset with how their 2023 campaign went, but they will be elated to know that North Carolina sports betting goes live on March 11th! Be sure to stay up to date on the latest news ahead of the launch, including the North Carolina sportsbooks that will be live!

Even though the 2023 season was rough for the Panthers, there is plenty to look back on and appreciate. Let’s travel back to the glory days and rank the best Carolina Panthers seasons. 

2003 Carolina Panthers

The Cardiac Cats are the most memorable squad in Panthers history.

Just two seasons after having a 1-15 record, the Panthers escaped with three overtime games en route to an 11-5 mark and NFC South title. The Panthers tied an NFL record with seven victories by three points or less. Running back Stephen Davis, defensive tackle Kris Jenkins, defensive end Mike Rucker, and punter Todd Sauerbrun all made the Pro Bowl. 

The Panthers began the postseason with a 29-10 victory vs. the Dallas Cowboys in the Wild Card round. Then Carolina solidified its new nickname with a thrilling 29-23 double overtime win at the then-St. Louis Rams in the Divisional round. The Panthers sealed the stunning victory with Steve Smith’s 69-yard touchdown reception from Jake Delhomme on the first play of the second overtime. 

In the NFC Championship Game, the Panthers dispatched the host Philadelphia Eagles with a 14-3 victory to reach the franchise’s first Super Bowl. Ricky Manning picked off Donovan McNabb three times as the anchor of the Panthers’ superb defensive display. 

Super Bowl XXXVIII between the Panthers and New England Patriots is widely regarded as one of the greatest in the sport’s history. 

The teams combined for 37 points in a wild fourth quarter that had a tie and three lead changes. The Panthers tied the game at 29 on Ricky Proehl’s 12-yard touchdown reception with 1:08 remaining. However, quarterback Tom Brady swiftly marched the Patriots into field goal range and Adam Vinatieri iced the championship on a 41-yard kick with four seconds to go. 

Overall, the Panthers took their fans on an unforgettable journey that put the franchise on the map. 

2015 Carolina Panthers

The 2015 Carolina Panthers pounced on their prey during the regular season. 

Flanked with 10 Pro Bowlers, including NFL MVP quarterback Cam Newton, the Panthers were the first NFC team in league history to go 14-0. The 15-1 final record is the best mark in franchise history. The lone loss came against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 16. It was a stunning turnaround from the prior season in which the Panthers went 7-8-1 and lost in the Divisional round to the Seattle Seahawks. For the second straight season, the Panthers had met the Seahawks in the Divisional round. 

This time, the Panthers exacted revenge with a 31-24 home victory. It was far from easy, as the Panthers’ 31-0 halftime was sliced to a touchdown deficit late. Thomas Davis’ onside kick recovery with 1:12 to go secured the win. 

The Panthers pounded the visiting Arizona Cardinals 49-15 in the NFC Championship Game to advance to the franchise’s second Super Bowl. Newton threw two touchdowns and rushed for a pair of scores. 

The defense forced seven turnovers, including six from Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (four interceptions, two fumbles). Linebacker Luke Kuechly put the exclamation on the victory with a 22-yard pick-six in the fourth quarter. 

In Super Bowl 50, the Denver Broncos defeated the Panthers 24-10. While it wasn’t a fairytale ending, this was still a spectacular season for the Panthers. 

2005 Carolina Panthers

The 2005 Panthers squad made another deep postseason run fueled by an inspirational recovery from Smith. Smith broke his leg in the 2004 season opener. He certainly bounced back in 2005 as the first wide receiver to earn the Triple Crown since Sterling Sharpe in 1992. Smith amassed 103 receptions, 1,563 yards, and 12 touchdowns to capture NFL Comeback Player of the Year and a Pro Bowl nod.  

Delhomme, defensive end Julius Peppers, and guard Mike Wahle were also selected for the Pro Bowl. 

The 11-5 Panthers entered the postseason as the No. 5 seed. 

The Panthers blanked the host New York Giants 23-0 in the Wild Card round. Carolina limited the Giants to 109 total yards while forcing five turnovers. In the first playoff game of quarterback Eli Manning’s career, the Panthers harassed him into three interceptions. Smith caught a 22-yard touchdown and also ran for a 12-yard score. 

The road magic continued with a 29-21 victory at the Chicago Bears in the Divisional round. Ken Lucas iced the win with a late interception of Rex Grossman just outside of the red zone. Delhomme passed for 319 yards and three touchdowns. Smith erupted for 12 receptions, 219 yards, and two touchdowns.

It signaled the third trip to the NFC Championship Game in the franchise’s first 11 seasons. In the conference title game, the Seattle Seahawks beat the Panthers 34-14. But the 2005 season will always have a special place in the hearts of Carolina fans. 

1996 Carolina Panthers

The Panthers posted a commendable 7-9 record in their inaugural season. However, their encore took the league by storm.

The AP All-Pro linebacking trio of Sam Mills, Kevin Greene, and Lamar Lathon led the charge defensively. Tight end Wesley Walls (10 touchdowns) was a favorite weapon for quarterback Kerry Collins.  The Panthers concluded the regular season on a seven-game winning streak to finish 12-4 to earn their first division title and a first-round bye. 

In the first playoff game in franchise history, the host Panthers knocked out the Dallas Cowboys 26-17 in the Divisional round. Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman was limited to 165 passing yards and tossed three interceptions. Collins threw a pair of touchdowns, one to Walls and the other to receiver Wilie Green. 

There were no touchdowns by either team in a defensive-minded second half. Pat Terrell’s late interception and John Casey’s subsequent field goal put the finishing touches on the signature victory. 

The incredible season concluded with a 30-13 road defeat against the eventual Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers. Yet, that doesn’t diminish that the 1996 Panthers wrote one of the most enchanting tales in NFL history. 

Can the Panthers channel some of their storied history and make a comeback season? Only time will tell. However, we do know that sports betting will be live in North Carolina on March 11th! Be sure to stay up to date on the latest North Carolina betting promos that are expected to go live at launch! 

Where to place a bet this NFL Season?

  • Use our exclusive BetMGM Bonus Code VIBONUS1500 to unlock BetMGM’s welcome offer for new sportsbook users!
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  • Check out the North Carolina Sportsbooks just before they launch legal online sports betting.