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Article Teaser: The only sure thing in football is that there are no sure things - especially where heady, self-sure prognosticators are involved.

Keep reading below...

Cats Without Their Claws

Copyright (c) 2006-2017

The only sure thing in football is that there are no sure things - especially where heady, self-sure prognosticators are involved. The fact of the matter is I like it when so-called 'experts' have to totally eat their own words when all of their crystal ball gazing goes bad.

Such appears to be the case with all the starry-eyed football buffs who proclaimed (with no real basis) that the Carolina Panthers would be hoisting the Lombardi Trophy at season's end. Evidently, the addition by subtraction strategy appeals to the experts. The Panthers showed the door to DT Brentson Buckner, LB's Will Witherspoon and Brandon Short, two Ricky's (WR Prohel and CB Manning) as well as fading RB Stephen Davis. The only impact players they were able to add were two middle-of-the-road DT's in Maake Kemoeatu and Damione Lewis and the highly overrated (not just to fantasy owners) WR Jeyshawn Johnson.

The front office is not the only area that has struggled of late, either. With the help of their two new defensive tackles and more disciplined approach, the Cats allowed a whopping 252 yards on the ground */in their season opener alone/*. In that game against the Falcons they did manage to hold Michael Vick to 140 yards passing yards on 10 out of 22 passing - hardly an accomplishment considering Vick's career averages. In spite of his lack of accuracy, though, he did manage to throw for two touches and pick up 48 yards on the ground.

Things hardly improved for the Panther's defense this Sunday against the surprising Vikings. They allowed 522 all-purpose yards, including a solid 19 for 31, 243 yard performance by Brad Johnson and a 16-yard TD pass for Ryan Longwell on a field goal fake. The run defense was better, but still allowed 140 yards on the ground to a team that went over 100 rushing yards seven times last season - only one of those instances was against a team that went to the playoffs (Chicago). Last year against Carolina, the Vikings only managed 82 yards on the ground and 171 through the air.

What about the offense? Have they faired any better than their counterparts on the other side of the ball? Not by a long shot. Carolina running backs have averaged a dismal 4.0 yards per carry over the first two games. As a team they have gained a total of 172 yards on the ground in that span. While DeAngelo Williams didn't get any carries in week 1, he was the lone bright spot in the running game against the Vikings, gaining 74 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries.

Jake Delhomme and the passing attack, while steady, have been less than spectacular. The most telling stat about the Panther's success through the air is that they are 5/26 on third down conversions. A 19% conversion rate just won't cut it in this league. The return of Steve Smith from a hamstring injury should help, but major strides are needed to improve the overall execution of the passing game, and by extension the offense as a whole.

Not all is doom and gloom, though. The Panthers are about to get some major help (aside from the imminent return of Smith) from the NFL scheduling department. Their next three games are at Tampa Bay (another team that is off to a horrific start) and against New Orleans and Cleveland at home. Drew Brees could continue his impressive play of late and give them trouble, but the other two of those match-ups seriously favor Carolina.

Even with better days on the horizon, the Panthers have a fair few issues to iron out before the Super Bowl talk can begin again. Over the last two years no team that has started 0-2 has been able to advance to the playoffs. It will take equal measures of preparation, execution and just plain luck to break that trend.


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Mike Ricigliani is a writer for NFL Directory - a directory of NFL websites. http://www.NFLdir.com

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Internal ID: #3570
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Word Count: 653

Total Views: 2433

Article Rating: 2.43 of 5
Votes Cast: 7

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