The hope: Thomas Davis and Jon Beason return to full health and start for the Panthers for more than two games in one season for the first time since 2009. Also, rookie Luke Kuechly continues his great play in the preseason and leads the team in tackles.
The fear: Certainly the biggest fear is Davis reinjures that ACL for a fourth time while Beason never gets that hamstring right. If those two cant stay on the field, its definitely a shot to team morale.
Fact checker: Carolinas first-half defense, consisting mostly of its starters, allowed 29 points in the first three preseason games. Davis has a sack, Kuechly a forced fumble and Jason Phillips an interception for the first-half linebackers.
Observer confidence: 7.33
Approval rating: 7.03
The hope: As the pass rush improves, so too does the secondary. A greater pass rush makes opposing quarterbacks force poor throws that gives DBs an easier job. The Panthers could use more than the 14 interceptions they had last year.
The fear: The Panthers arent terribly deep in the secondary, with rookie Josh Norman as the only real candidate to unseat a starter in Captain Munnerlyn. Carolina was hoping for production out of Brandon Hogan, but hes sidelined for the year on injured reserve. Another injury could spell trouble for Carolina.
Fact checker: Three interceptions for the Panthers secondary in the first four preseason games. In the first three games in which the starters played, opponents have 617 passing yards on the Panthers, but the starters have allowed just one touchdown.
Observer confidence: 4.83
Approval rating: 5.67
The hope: The Panthers improve on one of the worst pass rushes in the league last season. Charles Johnson returns to 2010 form where he had 11.5 sacks and Andre Neblett is healthy in Week 5 when his suspension is over.
The fear: Greg Hardy continues his lackluster preseason play while Johnson doesnt live up to the expectations his $72 million contract carries. But the pass rush cant get much worse than last season, when Carolina recorded only 31 sacks.
Fact checker: Opponents are 38 percent on third-down conversions this preseason. The team brought in veteran tackle Dwan Edwards to get a better vertical push up the middle to help the ends.
Observer confidence: 3.83
Approval rating: 5.50
The hope: Justin Medlock will kick it out of the end zone and nail 50-plus yard field goals. Rookie punter Brad Nortman will be able to down the ball inside the 20 and avoid touchbacks. Joe Adams will return punts the same way he did at Arkansas, which first caught the Panthers eye.
The fear: Medlock is 1-for-2 in field goals in his NFL career, and if that continues, Olindo Mare may be missed. Nortman could outkick his coverage, which led to opponents averaging 13.3 yards on returns when Jason Baker was the starter last year.
Fact checker: Medlock was perfect in the preseason before going to Pittsburgh, where he missed two tries from 50-plus yards. Kealoha Pilares didnt necessarily impress returning kicks, and Adams increased the Panthers average from last year on punt returns by 7.4 yards per return
Observer confidence: 5.33
Approval rating: 5.43