1. Injury Report:Linebacker Luke Kuechly, safety Kurt Coleman and cornerback Daryl Worley were listed questionable, and the latter two have been cleared to play.
Kuechly will miss his third consecutive game as he remains in the concussion protocol. Coleman's return is huge for the secondary. His veteran presence will be critical as the defense braces for San Diego's passing attack.
2. Aerial assault from Rivers? Speaking of passing attacks, San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers leads one of the NFL's most productive ones. Rivers is the league's sixth-leading passer with 3,353 yards and leads the AFC with 25 passing touchdowns.
The veteran signal-caller will test Carolina's secondary, which ranks 30th in passing yards allowed per game.
"You watch his ability to read defenses and attack. He still makes great decisions and delivers a good football. He's got a good feel for the game," Rivera said. "He's a tremendous competitor, as well."
Linebacker Thomas Davis knows of Rivers' competitiveness from experience. And he'll have the defense ready for the challenge.
"On the field he talks a lot of trash, probably more trash than most quarterbacks," Davis said. "But it's fun. He loves to compete, and we love to compete. It's going to make for a fun day."
3. Bottling up Bosa: After missing all of his first training camp during a contract dispute, there were those who thought rookie defensive end Joey Bosa's season was over before it started.
But San Diego's first-round pick eventually got on the field, and in eight games he's posted 5.5 sacks, leaving him just a half-sack behind linebacker Melvin Ingram for the team lead. That said, it'll be another tall order on the edges for offensive tackles Mike Remmers and Trai Turner.
"Any time a guy misses extended time it slows his growth and development down. But having said that, when you watch (Bosa), he's pretty good. He really is," Rivera said. "With Bosa and Ingram and (defensive tackle Corey) Liuget, they have a legitimate group up front, and they get after passers."
4. Shifting on the other front: The Panthers' patchwork effort on the offensive line has been well documented, but there could be some moving parts on the defensive line this week.
Defensive end Charles Johnson is out with a hamstring injury, and defensive end Mario Addison is questionable with a foot injury. Addison's return would be huge, considering he leads the team with 6.5 sacks.
But if Addison has any issues, Rivera said the Panthers could be forced to shift defensive tackle Kawann Short to defensive end. That's definitely something to keep an eye on as the game progresses.
5. Look out for Hayward: The NFL leader in interceptions and passes defensed? That would be San Diego cornerback Casey Hayward, who has impressively compiled seven picks and 17 pass-breakups.
The first-year Charger has proven to be the one of the league's best offseason acquisitions, and quarterback Cam Newton will have to be extra careful when he tests him or takes any shots downfield.
"Very opportunistic defense," Newton said of the Chargers, who pace the league with 15 interceptions. "I have to be very accurate and protect the football versus this team."
View photos of Panthers practice leading up to their game against the Chargers.