There’s a lot riding on this season for the Carolina Panthers. Many players and coaches could be playing for what may be their last season with the team if there aren’t significant improvements made.
Every Sunday this season (along with a Thursday and Monday night) will be extremely important, not only for this season, but possibly for seasons to come. While the Panthers have the toughest schedule in the league, it shouldn’t get too rough until the last third of the year for them. Cam Newton is going to have a big year and I think the Panthers will follow suit. So here’s a look at the 2013 Carolina Panthers schedule.
Week 1: vs. Seattle Seahawks: If there was ever a game this season that the Panthers need to win, it would be this one. The Panthers ended last season with momentum on their side and they need to start with that same momentum this season. Cam Newton and Luke Kuechly are leaders in the making and they really don’t need to have to begin picking this team up after only Week 1. While the Seahawks, led by former Wisconsin standout Russell Wilson, will be a tough first test, they do have some holes that the Panthers should be able to take advantage of.
With Percy Harvin out for the season and Sidney Rice recovering from surgery, the Seahawks are down to Golden Tate and Jevon Kearse as their receiving options, which aren’t bad choices. The Panthers secondary was shaky to say the least last year and this will be a good time for them to show that they have solved those problems. The matchup of Marshawn Lynch versus the Panthers front seven will be a fun one to watch. The secondary of the Seahawks is stout with Richard Sherman and the new addition of Antoine Winfield, although Winfield’s age may be somewhere that the Panthers can take advantage of.
Panthers 28, Seahawks 27
Week 2: at Buffalo Bills: This is a team that will surprise quite a few people, but I don’t think it happens early on in the season. The battle between Kevin Kolb and E.J. Manuel will fall Manuel’s way and the two quarterbacks in this game will look very similar. Manuel will have Stevie Johnson, T.J. Graham, and Robert Woods to air it out to and while the Bills will put some points up courtesy of these players, the Panthers secondary will be able to contain them for the most part.
This will be two weeks in a row where the Panthers defensive line will have their hands full. This time it will be C.J. Spiller trying to run through the holes. This week though, the Panthers will be dealing with a slashing runner rather than the bust-through style of Lynch in Week 1. Mario Williams will be expected to show up early and often this season, but the Panthers backfield will have success in this game.
Panthers 27, Bills 21
Week 3: vs. New York Giants: This might turn out to be one of the ugliest games during the entire NFL season. Here’s the stat that catches your ear, especially if you’re a Giants fan: the average age of the players on the Giants offensive line is 30. To go along with that, the defensive line is dealing with the absence of Jason Pierre-Paul and the permanent absence of Osi Umenyiora. Of course they do have a pretty good quarterback in Eli Manning and a couple of great targets for him to throw to in Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks along with others. I think the Giants throw it a lot and often, but I think the Panthers secondary eventually figures it out, though they will be scored on. Close game and a lot of points.
Panthers 38, Giants 34
Week 4: Bye
Week 5: at Arizona Cardinals: Larry Fitzgerald has to be happy that Michael Floyd and Carson Palmer have joined the team. I don’t know if it’s a good or bad thing when one of the coaches says that Tyrann Mathieu might be the best player on the field. That’s great that he’s doing well this early, but the Cardinals are going to need more than Mathieu if they are going to win games. Again, a lot of passes will be thrown on both sides, but especially from Palmer. And again, the Panthers come out on top by a close margin.
Panthers 30, Cardinals 27
Week 6: at Minnesota Vikings: There’s no question as to what the Vikings are going to try and do in every game they play. Adrian Peterson will get the ball and then he’ll get the ball some more. Greg Jennings will make some plays, but mostly this will be the AP show again, as long as he stays healthy. Christian Ponder isn’t consistent enough to throw on anyone successfully and if the Panthers have made it this far, winning their previous games, then this is going to be a confidence booster for their defense.
Panthers 31, Vikings 14
Week 7: vs. St. Louis Rams: With an upgrade to the O-line with the additions of Jake Long and Barrett Jones, Sam Bradford will likely be more comfortable in the pocket. But that won’t matter if his receivers aren’t able to make plays. When the Rams drafted Tavon Austin with the eighth pick they got a great talent, but he’s still young. They also lost Steven Jackson to the Falcons so Daryl Richardson and Isaiah Pead will step in to that role in the backfield. This is a Rams team with lots of potential, but I think they are a year or so away from making major noise.
Panthers 28, Rams 16
Week 8: at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: This game all depends on how Josh Freeman has done this far in the season in leading his team. He has the weapons on offense to score a ton of points with Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams at wide receiver and Doug Martin in the backfield. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Freeman has a bad game and the Panthers win this one with their defense making some big plays.
Panthers 32, Buccaneers 12
Week 9: vs. Atlanta Falcons: Even with the extended week after playing the Bucs on a Thursday, the Panthers aren’t going to beat the Falcons. The Falcons are on their way to playing in the Super Bowl. Not sure which superstar from the Atlanta lineup, other than Matt Ryan, that shines in this game, but at least one of them will make a few ESPN highlight plays and put numbers on the board. This Atlanta team is on another level than most of the teams in the league. The only question is whether it will be close or not. I don’t think it will be.
Panthers 12, Falcons 45
Week 10: at San Francisco 49ers: It’s a tough couple of weeks for the Panthers having to play the Falcons and then the 49ers on the road. This one won’t be much better than the previous week. The 49ers have made some great offseason additions, including Anquan Boldin. With Colin Kaepernick leading the way, I think it may be a close game, but San Fran wins this one, both in the air and on the ground with Frank Gore doing some damage also.
Panthers 17, 49ers 28
Week 11: vs. New England Patriots (Monday Night Football): This is the game where the Panthers get the bad taste out of their mouths from the previous two weeks. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are first in their class, but this season is going to be a rough one for the Patriots, by their standards. I’m sure someone will step up in place of all of the offense that they have lost from last season, but it’s going to be hard to replace Wes Welker, Aaron Hernandez, and the injury plagued Rob Gronkowski from week to week.
The Panthers will come into this game ready to erase the last two weeks from their mind, knowing they can make a statement against the Patriots while doing it on Monday night. Cam Newton is going to have a monster game. I think the defense will also make some big plays against Tom Brady.
Panthers 24, Patriots 17
Week 12: at Miami Dolphins: The Panthers will put another mark in the “win” column against the Dolphins. While they did pick up Mike Wallace in the offseason and Ryan Tannehill should show improvement from last season, it’s still going to be a long year for the Dolphins. Their running game will struggle mightily and when Wallace is being doubled, Brian Hartline will make a few plays, but nothing too big. The Panthers will have a good day in this one.
Panthers 30, Dolphins 13
Week 13: vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: By this time in the season the Buccaneers will have had it pretty rough. I really think it’s going to be a season of ups and downs for Josh Freeman and I fully expect that Mike Glennon will see some time in this game. As with the last game, the Panthers will come out as the winner at home.
Panthers 30, Buccaneers 17
Week 14: at New Orleans Saints: This will be a fun game to watch. When Drew Brees is under center, the Saints always have a great chance of winning the game. Training Camp has been tough on the Saints as they have endured injuries, some season ending. In this game Brees will do his usual thing and distribute the ball evenly to his play makers. The Panthers will still do some damage and make this a competitive game, but the Saints come out as the winner at home.
Panthers 24, Saints 30
Week 15: vs. New York Jets: The first play that Jets quarterback, Mark Sanchez made in the opening preseason game was intercepted and run back for a touchdown. Jets fans are already looking forward to basketball season. As most Sundays will be for the Jets, this is going to be a long day. The Panthers will do just about what they want to in this one. Everyone will get in on the action and Cam Newton and some of the other first stringers might sit out the fourth quarter.
Panthers 42, Jets 10 (maybe)
Week 16: vs. New Orleans Saints: This will be another good game between these two teams. It will be the same type of game as it was just two week before when these two met. I think the Panthers come out on top with the home field advantage.
Panthers 28, Saints 21
Week 17: at Atlanta Falcons: Absolutely the only way that the Panthers win this game is if the Falcons sit their starters. By now the Falcons will have wrapped up the division and won’t need to win this game. But it’s the last regular season home game of the season for them. It’s slightly possible they could be playing to stay undefeated. I don’t think they are going to tank this one. The Panthers keep it close, but the Falcons aren’t going to stop what they’ve been doing all season.
Panthers 17, Falcons 30
A lot of people are predicting the Panthers to go 8-8, 9-7, or 10-6. And they could be right. But I think that’s an easy prediction to make; if they are wrong, they won’t be wrong by much. But 12-4, that’s crazy! The Panthers have great talent, Newton seems to be continuing in his leadership, and some of the other, young players are stepping up. This Panthers team will surprise a lot of fans around the league this season.