Carolina defense needs to rebound

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- One interesting thing to keep an eye on will be how Carolina's defense responds after a bit of a slump late in the season.

With defensive tackles Maake Kemoeatu and Damione Lewis each missing some time with injuries, the Carolina defense wasn't nearly as good late in the season as it was earlier in the year. After 10 regular-season games, Carolina ranked No. 8 in total defense (17th against the run and fifth against the pass). But the Panthers allowed about 100 yards more a game over the final six games and ended up ranked 18th overall (20th against the run and 16th against the pass).

Carolina allowed 394 yards and 29 points per game over the last six contests.