New Schedule Is A Mistake

Back to back seasons of finishing with two away games against division rivals and with late bye weeks

The Carolina Panthers got gypped. Half of the team's home games are finished before week six. The lack of prime appearances of course is reasonable. The only problem I have with it is playing on Thursday night at all. I would rather play every game on Sunday afternoon than play a single Thursday game or passport game. The only time I would want to watch anything related to football on a Thursday night is if a corrupt, violent dictator was to be thrown, tackled, and kicked through goalposts the whole time by both teams. Thursday Night Football is worse than Jimmy Clausen winning a playoff game as a Dallas Cowboy because of the Tuck Rule. It's worse than the referees in the last two minutes of the Super Bowl. Thursday Night Football is only good if you're watching the Little Giants with your family. Otherwise it's Bottlegate.

But let's take a look at some fun predictions which I am sure I will gladly change by tonight when I put on my pjs and finish watching When The Game Stands Tall or whatever I feel like watching tonight.

1Cleveland With the hype on DeShaun Watson and whoever the Panthers choose to use at QB in week 1, this game will have a secret formula for a potential playoff contender. Win or lose, this has no reason to be a blowout for either side. But being the home team and with what should be a more stable staff, the Carolina Panthers could sneak a win early. I give this to the Panthers because of the powerful effect McCafferey will have and because the Panthers Defense should have the speed to annoy the Browns. 1-0

2. At Giants It's difficult to root for the Giants as the team seems to be trying to clean a Gettleman-sized mess and they said goodbye to a good player in Bradberry. There is some potential for this offense and the attention-grabbing Panthers defense should actually have their hands full with Buffalo's former offensive coordinator leading the way. Still, if the Panthers are to become great this season now, this is a playoff-seeming need. The Panthers should clear another hurdle that won't be so easy. It's easier to assume the Panthers will disappoint with a 1-1 start for one of these games but I will stick with a Panthers win for now. 2-0

3. Saints- Yeah. If the Panthers are to make some noise, the Saints will prove to be a nasty challenge. The Saints by this point will know to take Carolina seriously. This will be a wild challenge. The Carolina Panthers will have no excuses made for them if they win. Typically, this has been a position of disappointment for the team in recent years. The Saints are still with a set of challenges without Sean Payton and Alvin Kamara. 3-0

4. Cardinals- The Panthers caught a major break against Arizona last season that will not likely happen again. The Cardinals are looking good and will be rough on the young Carolina Panthers. This is a game that could make magic for the Carolina Panthers to prove to the NFL they are ready for a bigger stage. It's not likely to happen and has been the kind of game the Panthers have not been able to handle in the Matt Rhule era. 3-1

5. 49ers- Coming off a loss to the Cardinals, I see the 49ers smelling blood on a wounded Panthers team. But I see the Panthers rising from the thought of being caught in a tailspin, proving Arizona would be more of a setback rather than a step back. The 49ers should run into a problem with a better Panthers team this season. Carolina wants to avoid the problems of melting early. This will be an important game and will be treated as such. The 49ers could be better than advertised. But the Panthers are likely to take advantage of their early opportunities knowing the end of the season only gets hard. 4-1

6. At Rams- Now the real deal. Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp vs an improved Carolina defense. The Rams will probably have some struggles against the Panthers offense actually both on account of Carolina's improved team and the fact that the Rams defense showed some signs of vulnerability in the Super Bowl (that they actually lost- The last two minutes of the game never happened). The Rams are not going to let themselves get beat to a lowlife Carolina Panthers team. But they will let Carolina put up a fight. It's hard not to imagine that the injuries will start looking to the normal Carolina Panthers issues at this point of the season. 4-2

7. Tampa Bay Bucs- Okay at some point Carolina has to finally win one of these. If the Panthers don't beat Tampa at least one time this season, I have to believe the team has no real fight in them at all. The Panthers have more talent but lousy management of it. It should be much better this offseason and this game better prove it. 5-2

8. At Falcons- Halloween in Atlanta. I don't want to sleep on the Falcons but I'm not ready to give the team too much credit here either. I do believe Ridder could be a major problem for a long time in the division. Kyle Pitts will challenge the Panthers defense. By this point some holes will be displayed. If the Panthers are as good at offensive protection as the team should be and that fast Falcons defense will test them, then the Panthers should be able to squeak a win and give the fans something to get excited with a major boost in the first half of the season. 6-2

9. At Bengals- This is where it gets harder and this is where the season starts to feel real. The Bengals seem built for a long time of excellence. The Panthers are taking a longer, colder road to get there. Cincinatti will be a rude alarm clock for the Cinderella Panthers who will be riding home on cinderblock tires in a rough one. It is possible this is a good opportunity to shock the league. But I don't think Rhule is there yet. 6-3.

10. Seriously when is the freaking bye week? At home on Thursday night against the Falcons. Honestly, take the week off. I don't care. Boycott Thursday Night Football anyway. It's never going to be a good thing. Every time I think of Thursday Night Football, I remember the Buttfumble and the Cam-cussion game against the cheaters Denver Broncos. Will the Panthers actually sweep Atlanta? Sure. Let's say yes. 7-3

11. At Ravens- It's easy to write off the Ravens but it's not that easy. The AFC North is tougher no matter who you play. This one is going to be a good opportunity to showcase if the Panthers could truly be a scary threat to win the NFC South over the Bucs. It's one thing to outscore them in a game. It's another to pass them for a division title. The Panthers get excited entering the game but leave disappointed that it isn't quite there. Some manageable problems will be revealed and the Panthers may actually get good enough this season to fix them. 7-4

12. Denver Broncos- Russell Wilson brings the Denver Broncos to Charlotte late in the season. The defense will be fast and be able to play a tough game but Wilson will put a hurting. The offense needs to put a hunting on the Broncos. Maybe it is time to rethink about some of the games that have gone wrong against the Broncos and make some rights happen in the Panthers favor. This would be a great time to prove the Panthers are a true contender and maybe even a monster in the NFC. I say this is a close 8-4.

13. Finally a break. Panthers will need one after that wild November.

14. At Seahawks- Winter in Seattle is going to be rough. To move from Russell Wilson to playing against his old team is probably a story somewhere. For now, I see little reason why Carolina can't win this match. 9-4. Already a winning record!

15. Steelers- The Panthers have not beaten the Steelers in a regular season game since 1996. With the team going through a transition, it seems like the Panthers will finally make that happen. But it still is Matt Rhule young as he is and it is still a young Carolina Panthers team. The Panthers will face a tough home game here with a lot of enthusiasm. I want to believe the panthers will take advantage of a 9-4 and turn it into something great. But I don't see it. 9-5.

16. Lions- With playoff position in question, this game should be a clear win for the Panthers. It could become a division coronation if the South struggles enough. The Panthers should feel good for this matchup. 10-5

17. At Bucs- Assuming Tom Brady is still healthy, but it would be hard to believe all of the Bucs remain healthy this late in players' careers as well as the season, this should be a hard win for the Panthers. It was already posted the Panthers would win the first matchup. Are the Panthers good enough to sweep two NFC South opponents? It is doubtful just as much as the Bucs remaining healthy and near elite quality late in the season is doubtful. This is a tough call to make. So given the Panthers record at this point of the prediction, I will go with the Panthers reluctantly. 11-5

18. At Saints- Matt Rhule will fight for a playoff position and will not quite reach the distance the Panthers want. The Saints or somebody will still be a problem for the Panthers somewhere. This looks like that kind of place. 11-6.

Playoffs with an impressive improvement to 11-6 after a 5-12 season. That looks like that should be a division title or close to one. So I wlll think the Panthers win one round but lose in round two of the playoffs. Great improvement opportunity here for the Panthers. The big keys will be keeping that Defense hungry and the backfield protected.

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