When you have success in the NFL you can expect to have a harder schedule the following year but this is ridiculous:
By finishing in first place, the final two pieces of the 2008 schedule fell into place -- a home game against the Minnesota Vikings and a trip to Arizona to face the Cardinals.
The NFL's scheduling rotation had already set the Panthers' other 14 opponents:
HOME: Atlanta, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Philadelphia, Washington, Buffalo, Miami
AWAY: Atlanta, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Dallas, N.Y. Giants, N.Y. Jets, New England
Because the NFC South is paired with the AFC East and NFC East for interdivisional play, the Panthers' slate next year features only one team with a losing record -- the Bills, who finished 7-9. The total winning percentage of their opponents is .592, which pro-rates to an average record of 9.5 wins and 6.5 losses.
The divisional rotation towards two tougher divisions and being the division winner has resulted in a tough combination. Considering only one team has a 2008 losing record the Panthers could not have had a harder schedule period. We better enjoy this #2 seed because next year will be a lot tougher.
Its way too early to forecast wins and losses but I already dread the exercise. It will be interesting to see if the NE & Buffalo road trips are early or late in the season and become snow games. I also hate having to go to Dallas but at least the 'skins and Eagles will have to come to Charlotte.