The Carolina Panthers finished the 2018 season with a 7-9 record. That record wasn't good enough to make the playoffs, effectively ending their run early.

However, a poor 2018 doesn't necessarily have to foreshadow 2019. The Panthers have a lot of massive pieces in place that could help them to turn things around extremely quickly and find themselves in the playoffs again in 2019.

To do that though, Carolina will need some players to step up. They'll need to be the X-Factors that can help the team reach new heights. Who are they exactly though?

Here are the three main X-Factors for the Carolina Panthers in 2019.

Cam Newton

Cam Newton, Panthers

Cam Newton is a pretty obvious one. As much as you'd expect Christian McCaffrey to be here, he isn't. While McCaffrey is the MVP of the offense, Newton is the most important.

Look what happened when he had his best season in the NFL. Newton threw a career-high 35 touchdowns in 2015. He also had a career-low 10 interceptions. The Carolina Panthers went 15-1 and found their way to the Super Bowl.

Clearly, as Newton goes – so do the Panthers. If he can turn out an elite-level year, the sky is the limit. Therefore, although he isn't the best offensive weapon they have, he's the most important.

Greg Olsen


Since joining the Carolina Panthers in 2011, Greg Olsen has been one of the best tight ends in the entire NFL.

However, that claim hasn't been backed up over the last two seasons. It's not Olsen's performance on the field that's making people question the validity of the statement though – it's injuries.

From 2011 to 2016, Olsen appeared in all 16 games of each season for the Panthers. In the last two seasons he's only player in a combined 16 though.

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Not only did he not play in a lot of games, but he rarely looked healthy in them either. This wasn't the Olsen of old.

One of the reasons Cam Newton has looked so good in the past is having the elite Olsen as a fantastic safety net.

With a healthy Olsen on the roster, there's a whole different wrinkle to the offense. He's an elite route-runner who can get open and make the short-game and medium-games unstoppable. That helps open up the top of the defense and make the deep-threat lethal again as well.

Olsen will help the passing game, which in turns helps the rushing game. A good offense helps a defense as well. Basically, he means a lot to the Carolina Panthers.

Eric Reid

Eric Reid

The Carolina Panthers have a weird secondary. It's hard to identify them. Eric Reid in 13 games for them last year was exactly that identity.

Reid looked great at times, but definitely didn't look like the elite safety he was in the past. However, 2018 was his first season with the Panthers.

Reid can still be that elite safety. He's just 27 and still entering his prime. He's also been the anchor of a defense back when he was with the San Francisco 49ers.

Last season, the Carolina Panthers were 15th in yards allowed and 19th in points allowed. When you see a team in the middle-of-the-pack like that, you have to wonder what way the scales will tip the next season.

It could all come down to one or two players. Can they play good enough to shift the defense into top-10 territory? Or will they falter and drop them down into bottom-1o territory?

For the Panthers, Eric Reid should be considered one of their best defensive backs. Due to that, it's his play that could be the major difference in 2019 when it comes to their defense.

Just like how Greg Olsen and Cam Newton leading a good offense could help the defense, Eric Reid leading a good defense could help the offense succeed. If that happens, the Carolina Panthers could find themselves as Super Bowl contenders once again.

Due to that, it's hard not to see these three as major X-Factors for the 2019 season.