Tough season awaits Panthers

A schedule full of teams that had good records in 2008 will be a challenge. At least the road schedule might not be as rough

Staff WriterApril 15, 2009 

The Carolina Panthers face the second-toughest schedule in the NFL (behind the Miami Dolphins) and here's why:

Panthers opponents had a combined record of 123-84-1 (59.1 percent) last season. That's an average record of nearly 10-6. The Buffalo Bills (7-9) are the only team on the schedule that had a losing record in 2008.

The Panthers are scheduled to be on national TV three times (although that number could change because of the NFL's flex-scheduling for the Sunday night game later in the season).

There's one Monday night game -- on Sept. 28 in the Dallas Cowboys' new stadium.

There's one Sunday night game -- home in Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte against the Minnesota Vikings on Dec. 20.

And there's one Thursday night game Nov. 19 at home against the Dolphins on NFL Network.

The Panthers' bye week comes early, after their third game. That means Carolina "finishes" the season with 13 games in 13 weeks. Included in that stretch is a four-day turnaround from a Nov. 15 game against the Atlanta Falcons and the Dolphins' visit on Nov. 19.

The road schedule, at least, is fairly friendly. The Panthers play consecutive away games just twice, and the farthest they travel is to play the Arizona Cardinals. Last season, the Panthers played two games on the West Coast and were on the road for four of their final six games.

Minnesota and Arizona are on the schedule again -- intraconference games based on last season's standings. The Panthers, Vikings and Cardinals were first-place finishers in 2008. The same was true last season with the Cardinals (Carolina and Arizona finished second in their divisions in 2007), but the Panthers played the Vikings because NFC South teams were matched with the NFC North.

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