If you're looking for something positive about the Panthers season opening match-up with the San Diego Chargers look no further than the injury report:
Linebacker Shawne Merriman is playing with two torn knee ligaments. Tight end Antonio Gates will go, but his surgically repaired toe is far from 100 percent.
Defensive tackle Jamal Williams, the key to the team’s success on early downs, has tender knees.
Players already ruled out of the game include starting left tackle Marcus McNeil and starting center Nick Hardwick. This is good news for a defense intent on stopping a potent Chargers offense and a team picked by many to represent the AFC in the Superbowl. This puts big emphasis on DE Julius Peppers and DT Damione Lewis
to perform well since they are facing back-ups. Panthers 2nd year center Ryan Kalil gets a bit of break but not much against the mammoth NG Williams though I doubt he will ever have to face him single-handedly.
If the Panthers need bulletin board material all they need to see is the Point Spread that is giving the Panthers 9.5 points. Holy cow I wish I was a betting man. I realize we will be missing Steve Smith and that is huge but 9.5 points?!!
Of course Charger fans think all they have to do is show up to beat the Panthers:
At least they draw the Panthers, one of the softer spots on a decent schedule. And their upset hopes aren’t helped by missing standout wide receiver Steve Smith.
To me it shows that no matter what a team does in the offseason and no matter how well you play in the preseason no one will believe you've improved until you do it on the field in a game that counts.
Fair enough, it's time to make some believers!