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Ron Rivera: Panthers can come back in NFC South

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Even at 1-4, Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera plans to keep pounding.

He said as much to reporters Tuesday, noting that he's going to keep working "despite the fact that some people want to go ahead and give the division to somebody already with 11 games left to play. We'll just wait and see, though."

As the Charlotte Observer noted, the Panthers have started 1-4 three times under Rivera. They are five games below .500 in the first month of the season under Rivera and a combined 35-19-1 over the remaining 11 games.

It's never a good idea to project a team dead and buried after just five games, especially after seeing what happened to the Atlanta Falcons a year ago. While they claim to be a different team now, Carolina could end up looking like a different team over the remaining 11 games of the season.

This is clearly not the same Panthers team we saw tear through a bad NFC South last year en route to the Super Bowl, but when Cam Newton returns to the field, he is still the same transcendent quarterback who can take over games and fluster opposing defenses. Rivera can hinge most of his tough talk on the shoulders of last year's MVP.

Sunday's game against the New Orleans Saints will be a fine litmus test for Carolina as it shifts gears. Facing Drew Brees and Sean Payton fresh off a Saints bye week is never a welcome sight, especially for a young secondary that is still struggling to find its bearings. But if Rivera wants us to stop giving the division away, he'll have to start somewhere.

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