With training camp now closed and the preseason in full swing, Last Word on Pro Football is analyzing the schedules of all 32 NFL teams. Each team’s schedule will be split into the least difficult (9-16) and most difficult (1-8) games. For this piece, the Carolina Panthers most difficult games on their 2019 slate are under the microscope.
Carolina Panthers Most Difficult Games of 2019
1. Week 12: at New Orleans Saints
This should come as no surprise to anyone in the NFC South. The Saints finished last season with a 13-3 record, losing twice in the division. One of those losses was at home to the Panthers in the last game of the season, without the starters. There is probably no more difficult matchup in the NFL than having to face Drew Brees in the Superdome. If the Panthers are going to have the turnaround year they are hoping for, winning here will give them a serious boost for the final stretch of the season.
2. Week 10: at Green Bay Packers
The winter months for the Panthers last year were not the best to say the least. In games from early November onward, the Panthers held a disappointing 1-7 record. Things aren’t much easier this year with a November trip to Lambeau in the books. With Mike McCarthy now gone and Matt LaFleur at the helm, the Packers offense will look a lot more creative. And given that you have an extra motivated and now unrestricted Aaron Rodgers, the Packers will be tough to contain. For the Panthers, this will be a game Cam Newton will need to show off the receiving corps talked about so much during camp.
3. Week 17: vs New Orleans Saints
If it wasn’t for the November trip to Green Bay, the two Saints games would be back to back. Unlike the meaningless win at the end of last year, this year’s week 17 game could have playoff implications for the Panthers. Best case scenario, Carolina is healthy and already locked into one of the Wild Card spots going into the home finale.
4. Week One: vs Los Angeles Rams
The Panthers will have a chance in Week One to prove all the hype surrounding camp, right. They will host the defending NFC champion Rams in their first game of the new season. The Panthers may be facing a Rams team at full strength but if they want to improve on last year and return to the playoffs, these are the games they will need to win. Luckily, the Panthers have won their last five home openers and if there is anytime to upset the defending conference champs, it’s in week one.
5. Week Four: at Houston Texans
The last time these two teams met, the Texans were led by Ryan Mallett. If there is one thing these two teams have in common, it’s the inability to limit pressure on their respective quarterbacks. The Panthers have recently been able to overcome that flaw with the strong run game of Christian McCaffrey. Even amid the current rumors of a trade that would offload Jadeveon Clowney, the Texans front seven remains one of the best in the league. This game will be a good early-season test on how well Cam and company can handle the pressure.
6. Week 15: vs Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks hold the advantage over the Panthers, coming into this one having won six of their last eight meetings. The Seahawks come into the season looking to take control of the NFC West while the Panthers just want to return to the postseason. This matchup in Week 15 could have serious playoff implications for both teams. The Panthers defense will be in the spotlight this game, with the tough task of slowing down a very mobile Russell Wilson.
7. Week 14: at Atlanta Falcons
The biggest hurdle for the Panthers this year comes in the form of the Falcons. The Falcons have won six of the last seven games between these two, proving to be the Panthers biggest sore spot in the division. Unlike the supremely talented Saints, Panthers fans can probably point to several games they should have won over the Falcons. If the Panthers are going to have a shot at the division they will need to beat the Falcons at least once this year.
8. Week 16: at Indianapolis Colts
The Colts are another team the Panthers haven’t seen in several years, though they did face Andrew Luck the last time these two met. Recent questions have once again risen in regards to the health of Luck. Those questions are what have this game so low on the most difficult list. If Luck is healthy, this could be one of the toughest games for the panthers, with the late-season matchup possibly having playoff implications for both teams. With a Colts defense ranked in the top ten in points allowed last season, winning in Indy will prove to be a challenge, regardless of Luck’s health.