I was told, a long time ago, that it doesn't matter how much skill a player has. I mean, that matters, but eventually he's going to get figured out. How his career goes from there depends on how he responds to being figured out. After doing it that first time, his career will be a never-ending cycle of being figured out and adjusting his game to maintain a certain level of success. This would be the most common reason for the "sophomore slump".
Cam Newton started this season mired in a sophomore slump, trying to adjust his game to counteract the adjustments made by opposing defenses (that had all offseason to study the tape from his phenomenal rookie season). Through the first 10 weeks of the season, things looked bleak. Cam had turned the ball over 12 times and scored just 14 touchdowns. Those are hardly "superstar" numbers.
Somewhere around Week 11, Cam and his coaches figured out a counter-move and it's been relative smooth sailing ever since (albeit probably too late to save the job of his Head Coach). In his last 4 games, Newton has 11 touchdowns and have turned the ball over.........wait........no, he hasn't. He has put up the same amount of TDs in his last 4 games as he did in the first 9 of this season and he has done it without turning the ball over a single time. Yeah, that's a Superstar (with a capital S) that's headed into San Diego this week.
My goodness, Carolina has had a tough schedule so far this season. Look at this...
Two of those are probable playoff teams this season and the Saints aren't exactly chopped liver.
If the season ended right now, the only teams that the Panthers have played that wouldn't be in the playoffs are the Redskins (1 game out), Cowboys (1 game out), Buccaneers (who will probably finish above .500), the Saints (who are still incredibly dangerous) and the Chiefs (who were playing with all the emotion of the Jovan Belcher situation). Can you find an easy game in that schedule? I can't. The Chargers might be the easiest matchup they've had this year, and the Panthers are rolling (winning 2 of their last 3 games).
The 2012 San Diego Chargers are 1-6 when they turn the ball over two or more times. The Carolina Panthers have forced opposing offenses to turn the ball over two or more times in 6 of their 13 games (and 3 of their last 5 games). This is a defense that forces turnovers going up against an offense that turns the ball over more than 22 other NFL teams.
The Chargers, and Philip Rivers, certainly have the capacity to play a mistake-free game and not turn the ball over. Heck, they've done it in 2 of their last 3 games. However, they've turned the ball over at least once in 10 of their 13 games this season, which makes it somewhat foolish to gamble on that possibility.