Coming into the season the Carolina Panthers were favored to be the NFC representative in the Super Bowl. They had WR Steve Smith coming back after a serious leg injury, a strong quarterback (Jake Delhomme), a multifaceted running game and a great defense.
Obviously this is a talented team and that may be the reason they started this season 1-2. It's easy for a team to feel that it's going to be in every game just because of the talent they have on the field. That attitude can take away from the intensity on the field and during the week in practice. That's dangerous for any team because that means that the team is going to drop some games that they should win and lo and behold the Panthers' two losses are to the New Orleans Saints and the Miami Dolphins. I don't use those two teams as an example because they are bad, but because they were underdogs against the Panthers yet were able to win because they were more consistent during the game. In Miami's case they were also more disciplined and only committed one penalty during the game.
Teams in this league must beat the teams that they are supposed to beat because a team can't play four quarters on straight emotion or talent. When I played with the Denver Broncos we thought the Oakland Raiders had more talent on paper, but we always said let's weather that first punch and win the game in the end because of our attention to detail. We knew our lack of turnovers was going to make up for the turnovers and stupid penalties that the Raiders were going to incur. That was always our mantra and I was 11-1 in those six years playing against the Raiders.