Originally posted on This Given Sunday  |  Last updated 6/25/13
Maybe it's a Ron Rivera thing, because the Carolina Panthers certainly didn't possess this much bravado under John Fox.   One year ago, Panthers center Ryan Kalil took out a full-page ad in a local paper in order to guarantee a Super Bowl victory. Carolina went on to finish 7-9, only one game better than in the previous season, and Kalil made sure to stay out of the bold declaration game going forward. His teammates aren't following suit.  While they aren't taking out ads or guaranteeing championships, they're setting the bar quite high for a team that hasn't had a winning record since 2008.  “I think just given the pieces that we’ve added, getting guys back off of injury, we can definitely compete for that No. 1 spot in the league,” linebacker Thomas Davis said last week, according to the Charlotte Observer. “It’s going to be scary how good we can be. And I’m excited about this year. I feel like we can be the top defense in NFL football,” cornerback Captain Munnerlyn added this week, according to local radio station WFNZ. In terms of scoring defense, the Panthers allowed 22.7 points per game last season, which was exactly the league average but ranked 18th. In terms of total defense, they ranked 10th after surrendering 333.1 points per game. They were average in almost every respect. The defense isn't particularly old or particularly young. In fact, they're ranked smack dab in the middle in terms of average age, too.  Davis could, however, have a point when it comes to getting guys back from injury. Only five NFL defenses were hit harder by injuries than the Panthers were in 2012, according to Football Outsiders. With Jon Beason and Davis healthy and Luke Kuechly and Josh Norman a year older and Star Lotulelei on board, this defense could indeed take a big step forward in 2013. But can they jump from the middle of the pack to the top spot? Regardless, they seem to believe that can happen. Maybe the better strategy, though, would be to let the chips start falling rather than talking about. 

This article first appeared on This Given Sunday and was syndicated with permission.

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