There have been a lot of speculations and worries about the Panthers this season after a brutal 1-4 start. There were a lot of expectations for Cam Newton to take the next step at quarterback and for the team to potentially become a contender after a relevant 6-10 season last year. And why wouldn't they? The team is one year older, and one year wiser which should translate to wins right? Coach Ron Rivera is a defensive genius that should have this team looking like the Chargers did a few years ago, right?

Wrong.

In a world where we aren't patient and willing to wait for development, you have to understand that this team will take time. Cam Newton burst onto the scene last year and did nothing but shock people with his offensive firepower, but you could tell by the end of the season that team had figured him out possibly a little bit. One year later Newton is a year wiser, and he has learned a bigger chunk of a playbook that will continue to grow as he does.

You also have to realize that the Newton's Panthers started 2-8 in 2011, and they didn't really start to win games until they bonded together and the defense tightened up a little bit. The season isn't over after a 1-4 start, especially if you consider the fact that they have only four teams with a winning record (right now) left on their schedule. Oh, and that 1-4 start is overshadowed by the fact that the Falcons stole a win after a Roddy White Hail Mary catch a few weeks ago. The team has also has had three of their four losses by an average of just four points, which means that they were in the game until the very end. 

What about Ron Rivera? Many point out that he did wonders to a defense in San Diego that consistently was one of the best defenses statistically in the NFL. But there are problems with that theory. First off, he statistically had one of the best defenses in the league because 40% of his games were against the Raiders, Chiefs and Broncos. In ten years nobody will point out the 2010 Chargers as an elite defense, because they weren't when you compare them to the Ravens and Steelers. You just can't point out the stats to define why this Panthers team is poor.

You want a prediction for the offseason? The Panthers will switch to the 3-4 defense. It has to happen. The team has some good edge rushers in Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson, and they may not be perfect fits, but this team just does not translate as a 4-3 that well. The team could slide Kuechly inside where he fits a bit better to create a nasty tandem with Beason. Then develop some real edge rushing linebackers while blocking the holes with big bodies. Either way though, this team needs to find players everywhere to play on this team. The backfield is sloppy, and the defensive tackles aren't cutting it. But they are blend of bad and young that nobody could win with.

Finally the team needs to get younger/better on offense. Steve Smith might have something left in the tank, but the team needs one or even two other receivers that can steal away the double team from him. Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams are a one-two punch of injury prone unimpressive rushers, and that needs to be fixed. The Chargers pass game (remember that Rivera has a lot of similarities in offense style) was able to succeed without an elite receiver core because they had guys like Tomlinson, Sproles and Turner who could rush the ball while opening the field up for receivers.

While it is easy to think that Cam Newton is having a 'Sophomore Slump' that is causing his team to fail, you have to truly realize that this is a team with few real weapons around him. The defense does need to get better, and the offense needs more weapons to open up. Give it time, because Newton's Panthers do have the potential to be a real & true contender.