This could easily be 4-4 or better. With the exception of the Atlanta game, where they lost by 14, all of their losses have been by a touchdown or less. The game that sticks out the most in this regard is the last one they played, against the Vikings. All their kicker had to do was make a 31 yard field goal, which would have sent the game into overtime. He botched it.
The offense has looked very good, for the most part, all season. Cam Newton has been phenominal. I said before the draft that I didn’t think he was going to be a very good quarterback in the NFL. Then, during the preseason, he played like crap and I was preparing for a very long season. The first two games of the season, however, he goes into beast mode, eclipsing 400 yards passing in each. Granted, we’re only halfway through the season, but it looks like Cam is going to prove me wrong. I hope he does. The Panthers need him to keep playing like he has been, only with fewer turnovers.
Steve Smith has been benifitting the most from Cam’s play. He already has as many receptions, more yards and more touchdowns than he did all of last season. While the Panthers still don’t have another big threat at WR, the additions of Jeremy Shockey and Greg Olsen at TE have been huge for Smith and Cam. Combined, the duo has 53 receptions, 651 yards, and 5 touchdowns, meaning that the defense can’t always focus on Steve, giving him opportunites to get open.
The running game has been somewhat dissappointing. While DeAngelo Williams (4.8 ypc) and Jonathan Stewart (4.6 ypc) have been good, they really haven’t been as explosive as they have been in past years. I know some of that has to do with Cam being able to run the ball, but I was expecting more from this duo.
Defense/ Special Teams:
The Panther’s defense and special teams has been it’s downfall all year. When you lose a leader like Jon Beason to injury, like they did after only a week, it’s hard to recover from, but with Rivera’s defensive knowledge, he should still be able to coach this group up better than he has. Maybe this week’s bye will help with that. They need to be able to stop the run consistantly now to turn those close losses into good wins.
Our kick/punt returners have been horrible this year (KR: 21 ypr/ PR: 5.5 ypr). Either put someone else on the team back there that can give us better field position, or pick up someone off the waiver wire who can.
This team looks a lot better than the one they put on the field last year, but there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done.