The Carolina Panthers are 4-2 right now and sit atop the tough NFC South, above the Saints, Falcons, and Buccaneers. A huge reason for their solid start has been a defense that has been spectacular at several points throughout the year. In week 2, the Buffalo Bills managed to score just three points in an entire game. That defensive performance saved a rough outing for Cam Newton, who struggled.

But now the captain and leader of the Carolina Panthers defense will be missing, as Luke Kuechly suffered an injury against the Philadelphia Eagles. The linebacker is currently in the concussion protocol, and hopes to be cleared by the end of the week.

Timetable for a Return

If the Panthers are smart, they'll wait a week instead of sending their best defensive player out against the Chicago Bears. Another concussion could be career ending, and the last thing the Panthers need is their best player sidelined for the rest of the year.

Kuechly has suffered other concussions in the past, and further blows to the head wouldn't just ruin his NFL career, it would ruin his later years as well. Think about players like Junior Seau and others, who had CTE. Is it really worth risking long-term health for one road game against the Bears? Especially for a game that the Panthers could probably win without him?

Ron Rivera has suggested to the media that they will follow this cautious approach, and it would be wise for them to do so.

After all, Cam Newton might be able to carry the team to a few wins without him.

Cam Newton's Play in 2017

The quarterback's play has been extremely erratic all season. Against the New England Patriots, he threw for more than 300 yards and had three touchdowns. That performance helped Carolina earn a shocking road win. He followed that performance with another big one that resulted in a road win against the Lions.

But against the Eagles, he looked vulnerable, and threw three interceptions.

It looked like he was trying to do it all by himself on offense, especially with the Panthers struggling to run the ball. So far, Carolina's running game has essentially been Cam and nobody else. Christian McCaffrey has contributed in the passing game, but the offensive line has not been able to open up holes for Jonathan Stewart and the talented young rookie on the ground.

So Cam is carrying the offense right now, and with Kuechly out, may be carrying the defense as well. Carolina will likely not play the linebacker this week against Chicago, but he should be back for the Buccaneers game.