The third week of the 2012 season is coming to a close, and the Carolina Panthers are about done licking their wounds from the Thursday night beat down they received at the hands of the New York Giants.
Sitting at third in their division at 1-2, the Panthers have been disappointing and have not looked like the team on the rise that some had pegged as playoff contenders.
So, what gives?
Carolina finished last season at 6-10 and, at this point last season, was also sporting a 1-2 record. The only difference is that the Panthers picked up the first win of the season in Week 2 this year; a year ago the got the win in Week 3.
Have we seen everything this team has to offer? Probably not.
While everyone in league circles and around the Carolina fanbase is quick to blast the team for underachieving—and justifiably so—it could also be argued that the Panthers are far from being a disappointment at this juncture.
Five teams that made the playoffs last year currently have losing records. The Detroit Lions, New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers and Denver Broncos each share a 1-2 record with Carolina, while the New Orleans Saints (0-3) have had an even more disappointing season.
Of those five teams, three of them were division champions last year.
Given this interesting trend, why is everyone quick to panic and think the worse about Carolina? Better yet, why is the football community so critical of the Panthers performance?
If anything, one could argue that Carolina is keeping some exclusive company. Granted, it would be for the wrong reasons, but how many times will you see the Patriots and Steelers tied with the same record—and that record is below .500?
So much of the criticism directed toward the Panthers is closely intertwined with the expectations surrounding Cam Newton. After setting some league records for rookie quarterbacks last year, Cam was expected to build upon those numbers and carry the Panthers to new heights.
While Newton is a talented quarterback with the potential to be elite, other QBs who have already established themselves—Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger—are all part of losing teams. So while the production of Newton does factor into the success or failure of the Panthers, he can say, for the moment anyway, he has the same record as four Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks.
The offense as a whole has been terrible, so it would be unfair to put the blame entirely on Newton.
The running game could not get started in Week 1 and was abandoned after 13 attempts. This past Thursday, DeAngelo Williams ran the ball well, but the Panthers seemed to want use option plays or air it out instead of letting Williams build on the 4.5 yards per carry he was registering when his number had been called.
Carolina ranks among the bottom in the league in points. But it's interesting to note that the Dallas Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagles—both of which have scored five fewer points than Carolina—each have a record of 2-1.
The Panthers defense was probably at its worse this past week against the Giants, but it has given up only 79 points on the season. While not overly impressive, there are teams who have given up far more scores than Carolina but have a better record.
These are just a few observations and scratching-the-surface numbers that should be pointed out to anyone who leans toward being overly critical of the Panthers.
The season is far from over and anything can happen.
Carolina is a talented team and has the potential to be a good team. No doubt, some of the other 1-2 teams will bounce back and make a playoff push at season's end.
The Panthers should be no different.
Let's not write these guys off just yet. They have some fight left in them.