At this time of year, hope springs eternal for fans of all 32 NFL teams. Everyone has hopes for a successful season. Everyone has expectations.

Of course, expectations for some teams are higher than others. The Kansas City Chiefs expect to make the Super Bowl. Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson expects to post gaudy yardage totals. The Jacksonville Jaguars expect to make the postseason.

No, really. They do.

For others, expectations are much more modest. No one expects the Chicago Bears to win the Super Bowl. Or for Atlanta Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder to lead the league in passing yards.

The thing about expectations, though, is that the more modest they are, the easier it is to exceed them. Maybe it's a running back telling Father Time to get bent. Or a couple of last-place teams making the postseason. Or a veteran quarterback washing off the stink of a down year.

For every player and team that fails to meet expectations, there will be those who exceed them.

Players and teams just like these.


The Carolina Panthers Will Win the NFC South

The Carolina Panthers don't have much in the way of expectations in 2023.

They have a new head coach in Frank Reich and will likely be starting a rookie quarterback in Bryce Young.

Carolina was 29th in the NFL in total offense last year and 22nd in total defense. Even in an NFC South that is among the league's weaker divisions, not many are picking the Panthers to be a factor in the division this season.

However, Cody Benjamin of CBS Sports believes the Reich/Young pairing could be one that pays immediate dividends:

"(Reich) and Young are sort of a package deal here. While the QB would've been a worthwhile top pick even without Reich taking over the staff, the fact they're working together makes Carolina all the more intriguing. Though he managed just a single playoff victory as the Colts' head man from 2018 into 2022, Reich is as even-keeled as they come, making him an ideal mentor for the new signal-caller. He should have an ascending Panthers roster competitive right out of the gate."

It's not just about Reich and Young, either. Miles Sanders was a 1,000-yard running back with the Eagles last year. Adam Thielen and D.J. Chark may not be the most imposing wide receiver duo, but both have 1,000-yard seasons on their professional resume.

In edge-rusher Brian Burns, linebacker Frankie Luvu, cornerback Jaycee Horn and safety Jeremy Chinn, the Panthers have talent on defense.

They may not have the most talented roster in the NFC South, but they aren't that far off—and Reich may well be the division's best coach.

He's going to lead the Panthers to an NFC South title in his first season.