Bye-week observations on the Panthers

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

They're 6-2, relatively healthy and sitting atop the NFC South standings. The Carolina Panthers at their bye week seem to have put two seasons of mediocrity and disappointment behind them.

Here are five bye-week observations on the Panthers.

1. John Fox is basically off the hot seat he started the season on. He's three or four wins from a playoff spot and the schedule doesn't get tough until December. Apologies to the Bill Cowher fan club, but this job is not going to be open. Even if the Panthers had a disastrous season, I firmly believe Cowher would not have ended up in Carolina. Owner Jerry Richardson once went down a similar road when he brought in George Seifert. Richardson is the kind of guy who learns from his mistakes. Cowher will end up coaching somewhere next year, but Fox will stay in Carolina.

2. Jake Delhomme has made an absolutely fantastic recovery from Tommy John elbow surgery. He has thrown the ball better than before. But there still is one more test on the horizon. There is bound to be a cold-weather game or two and his elbow needs to get through that before you firmly can say everything is fine.

3. We're only starting to see what coordinator Jeff Davidson's offense is all about. Davidson was handcuffed without Delhomme last year and injuries on the offensive line have brought a lot of shuffling up front so far. But right tackle Jeff Otah and center Ryan Kalil should be back after the bye and Davidson's system will have a chance to truly prosper for the first time.

4. Overall, Carolina's defense has been very good. But there's one area that needs to improve down the stretch. That's the pass rush from the front four. Aside from some flashes by Julius Peppers, there hasn't been a lot of noise up front.

5. The Panthers have missed more than they've hit in the middle rounds of the draft. But third-round pick Charles Godfrey is making up for that. He got thrown in as the starter on Day 1. Very quietly -- and it's a wonderful thing when you don't hear a safety's name much -- Godfrey already has established himself as a solid starter.