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Youth, inexperience hinder Panthers' hopes

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Carolina Panthers

2009 record: 8-8 (Third in NFC South)
Vic Carucci
With inexperienced quarterback Matt Moore as their starter, the Panthers will struggle. Their defense isn't likely to help.
Prediction:  5-11, last in NFC South
Steve Wyche
If Matt Moore doesn't perform immediately, calls for rookie Jimmy Clausen could unsettle an already fragile situation.
Prediction:  6-10, last in NFC South
Pat Kirwan
Panthers will lean heavily on running game and Matt Moore will be adequate. Offense lacks receivers and defense needs a pass rush.
Prediction:  6-10, third in NFC South
Bucky Brooks
The Panthers will take on John Fox's gritty personality to claw their way to respectability behind wins over some of the NFC's top teams.
Prediction:  8-8, third in NFC South
Jason La Canfora
If Matt Moore doesn't turn the ball over, they can be competitive. Best rushing tandem in the NFL, and I like some of the youngsters on D.
Prediction:  8-8, third in NFC South
Michael Lombardi
Too young and not enough depth to play well the entire season. Will show flashes of being a good team, but Matt Moore is still very young.
Prediction:  6-10, third in NFC South
The number of wins Matt Moore has in eight starts. That's a good sign for the Panthers, who are relying on the young quarterback to take over and lead the team after veteran Jake Delhomme's departure. Should he falter, Jimmy Clausen awaits.
Dwayne Jarrett
Jarrett has been penciled in as the complementary receiver to Steve Smith since his arrival as a second-round selection in 2007. A tall, rangy receiver with the size and athleticism to win jump ball situations, Jarrett has the potential to fill the void, but he has yet to fulfill expectations. Few expect him to emerge as the team's No. 2 receiver when the dust settles following camp.
Jon Beason
Beason ranks as one of the top middle linebackers in the league. He shows outstanding instincts flowing to the ball, and is a tackling machine at the point of attack. Although he is one of the premier players at his position, Beason's versatility has prompted the team to move him to weak-side linebacker. He will serve as the designated playmaker in the Panthers' Cover 2 scheme. Though he will still play in the middle in some sub-packages, the move outside should result in more impact plays.
Williams is still the one
Despite the heroic efforts of Jonathan Stewart down the stretch in 2009, DeAngelo Williams remains the best fantasy running back in Carolina. Before injuring his ankle, he was on pace for close to 1,400 rushing yards and nine touchdowns. A committee is imminent, but Williams will be the better option.
Three pivotal games
Oct. 24 vs. San Francisco
This matchup with the 49ers will be the Panthers' fourth home game in six weeks (including a bye), and their playoff hopes will likely ride on how they perform in that early stretch. San Francisco is considered a team on the rise, but for Carolina to make a postseason run it will have to defeat clubs like the 49ers.
Nov. 14 at Tampa Bay
The Panthers swept the Buccaneers last year and doing so again this season could be crucial to staying in the playoff hunt. With Tampa Bay hopeful of rising up the ranks in the NFC South, Carolina will have to dig in to make sure that doesn't happen. Overtaking New Orleans and Atlanta will be difficult enough than to have to worry about the Bucs.
Dec. 12 vs. Atlanta
In order for their Week 17 showdown with the Falcons to really matter, the Panthers will probably have to win this home game three weeks earlier. Carolina has beaten Atlanta at home in each of the past two years, and with the Panthers having only two out of their last six at Bank of America Stadium, they can't afford to drop this one.



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