I know Steve Smith was out for awhile last year but I don't care, they are so overrated.
To be fair, they lost a lot more then just Steve Smith for 2 games. Even with all those injuries and one of the toughest schedules in football...they were 1 foolish play away from making the playoffs. (Chris Gamble Week 2) They actually had many more chances, but they somehow screwed them up.
The problem they had last season was a very conservative offensive coordinator...their defense even with the nagging injuries of Ken Lucas (Pro-Bowl CB) and Dan Morgan gone for the year...gave up the least amount of points in the 1st quarter of games. (I believe) Dan Henning was way to conservative regarding the run game, his passing routes were very predictive for opponents, the fact they had 3 starting OL's out including Mike Wahle at the end of the season really hurt them offensively, they had to go with a backup plan and never did. That's why they fired their offensive coordinator this off-season.
You'd be foolish not to put this team in the top 10, they have had arguably the best off-season of any team...their draft was 2nd to none, in my book.
Regarding last season:
Steve Smith (2 games, both loses)
Jake Delhomme (3 games LATE in the year, 2 loses...one win was because of the defense, I think Weinke barely threw the ball that game)
Justin Hartwig (Starting center)
Travelle Wharton (Starting tackle)
Mike Wahle (Pro-Bowl Guard)
Dan Morgan (Their All-Pro MLB)
Ken Lucas (All-Pro CB, kept having nagging injuries, wasn't the same shut down corner)
That's a lot of injuries to overcome for any team, especially having your starting QB be out in the most crucial part of the season where you're battling for the playoff spot against teams that are in the same situation, and to have someone like Chris Weinke start, not much to work with. I could not believe that DeAngelo Williams didn't start after about week 6, this guy is clearly the better RB then Foster, Foster would have been a perfect 3rd down runner for Carolina. I thought Eric Shelton would have more impact on the field then Foster personally, but I don't think he had more then 10 carries. Again, I blame the coaching staff for not having a backup plan...they worked their defense way too much, and didn't try anything new on offense...in the mini camp many players in Carolina are liking the new play calling. This team is most definitely a top 10 team in this league, they had a lot of mis fortune last season. They added a ton of new pieces and made all the right adjustments...and have one of the easier schedules this season.
-- Really had nothing to work with in Houston, I'm really looking forward to seeing what this kid can do with Steve Smith and Dwayne Jarrett (hopefully he's Ok after that accident in the off-season)
-- Probably the best center in this years draft, they have a very deep OL, I guess they're a little self conscience regarding the injuries because they could give their backups the starting role this season.
-- A very nice addition by Carolina, a perfect replacement for Michael Rucker in a few years. The rich got richer, with Peppers, Jenkins and Rucker...this is arguably the best defensive line in football.
-- 1st round pick for Carolina, nice addition. I'm not sure what they're trying to do here, will they move Thomas Davis to SF? That's the only real question mark this team has this season, they have a really old safety position. Jon should be an impact player right away, he's versatile so he could play outside and inside. That's what John Fox is all about, he's going to use him the way he uses Julius Peppers.
I think you're underrating this team, they are better
then they were last season, and last season every major expert had them at the top of the ladder. I guess you're not convinced because of last-season, I'm not sure how much you followed this team but they had a lot of mis fortune. They are a proud bunch and I know will come back with a vengeance this season. They made all the right moves, they got the right personnel, they are deep and talented. I suggest you keep an eye out for DeAngelo Williams, this kid has got a very bright future. It really frustrated me how little Carolina had trust in him, after watching Reggie Bush get all the confidence in the world, and finally showed signs of greatness late in the season...I guess it has a lot to do with Bush being a much earlier pick...but I'm positive Williams will show the football world how special of a RB he will become.
You don't have to believe me regarding Carolina, I can see you're pretty set on thinking they're not a top 10 team, but following past trends is kind of arrogant on your part, because with the new pieces they added, they injuries they had, the coaching changes they made are all key components to believe this is a super bowl team without a doubt.
I personally have them in the top 5, barring injuries their rush defense will be deadly, a lot of speed and athleticism...will give Peppers more chances to rush the Quarterback...I think they need to move Thomas Davis to SS, or make a move for a proven SS (maybe offering Chris Gamble and someone like Thomas Davis). Marshall should start at corner for Carolina, he was easily their best secondary player last season.
I'm looking forward to this season, I do agree with that top 10 list...more or less, I haven't really looked closely in what moves other teams made. I know New England will be scary with Moss, I hope he doesn't screw up that as well, he has a great chance at getting a ring.