2009 record: 8-8 (Third in NFC South)
Michael LombardiToo 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.
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.
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 BeasonBeason 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 oneDespite 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 FranciscoThis 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 BayThe 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. AtlantaIn 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.