NFL Carolina Panthers

NFL Playoffs 2013: 5 Reasons Why Carolina Panthers Shouldn’t be Considered Contenders

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5 Reasons Why The Carolina Panthers are not Contenders in 2013

Crystal LoGiudice - USA Today Sports

The Carolina Panthers are having a tremendous season. After starting out the season 1-3, they went on an eight-game winning streak before losing last week to the New Orleans Saints. Even so, they sit at 9-4 on the season and are currently the no. 5 seed in the NFC Playoff picture. They are only a game behind the Saints for the division and still get to play them in Week 16, and they hold the tiebreaker over the San Francisco 49ers for the no. 5 seed. They also hold a one game lead over the Arizona Cardinals. They are in excellent shape to make the playoffs for the first time in the tenure of quarterback Cam Newton.

There are a lot of things to be excited about as a Panthers fan. Newton has matured to the point where he can be considered one of the better QBs in the league. He has erased some of the doubts over his first two years in the league by leading his team through game-winning drives and making the big plays in tight games. After losing so many games by less than one score in his first two seasons, Cam is 3-1 this year in games decided by five points or less.

On top of the improving play of their QB, the Panthers boast one of, if not the best defense in the league. Their front seven is the best led by potential defensive player of the year candidate Luke Kuechly. The defense has won them some games this year and has put together some stellar performances.

Even with everything great going for the Panthers, I am here to tell you that they are still a few players away from being Super Bowl contenders. They are having a remarkable season and making the playoffs is a huge accomplishment in itself, but fans should curb their expectations of a ring this year because the team is limited in some facets of the game. As you have seen, they are capable of hanging with the best teams in the league and lay eggs against teams that they should blow out. The Panthers are certainly heading in the right direction and fast, but here are five reasons why they are not Super Bowl contenders in 2013.

Zach Slotter is a contributor for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @zslot6, Like his Facebook page and add him on Google.

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5. Lack of Weapons on the Outside

Sam Sharpe - USA Today Sports

This team is not built to come from behind. They are ninth in the league in rushing yards per game, but they're 29th in passing yards, and not all of that falls on Cam. They are not built to come from behind because they lack the weapons on the outside. They still have Steve Smith, but guys like Brandon Lafell and Ted Ginn Jr just don't match up compared to the no. 2 and no. 3 receivers on the other playoff teams.

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4. Going on the Road

Crystal LoGiudice - USA Today Sports

If the Panthers don't somehow win the division, they are going to have problems advancing in the playoffs. They are 5-1 at home this year but only 4-3 on the road. As a five-seed, they would have to travel. If they get through that game, they would have to go to Seattle -- not the easiest task for a young, inexperienced team.

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3. Inexperienced Secondary

Kim Klement - USA Today Sports

Kuechly is a top-three linebacker in the entire league and Charles Johnson is one of the league's elite pass rushers. But while the front seven is dominant, there are some holes in the secondary. Drew Brees picked them apart last week and the secondary is filled with guys that are either again veterans or still trying to prove themselves as capable starters in this league. Any team with a lethal passing attack could give the Panthers some problems.

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2. Limited QB

Derick E. Hingle - USA Today Sports

Don't get me wrong, I think Cam is a very good quarterback, but with the way this offense is structured, it limits the Panthers if they are trailing in the game. Cam takes too many sacks and when his team is losing and the run game has to be thrown out, I don't know for sure that Cam can make all the throws as you saw in the Saints game.

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1. Holes on the Offensive Line

Jake Roth - USA Today Sports

The Panthers are solid on the left side with Jordan Gross and Ryan Kalil in the middle, but the right side is suspect and Byron Bell and Nate Chandler might not be ready to anchor the line.