With the regular season schedule now released for the 2023 NFL season and Week 1 odds already out, we can now take a look ahead at just what these new Carolina Panthers will be facing. We’re going to break the schedule down into bite size chunks and talk about everything from strength of opponents to the distance the Panthers are going to have to travel. What we aren’t doing just yet—but we’ll never stop y’all from doing in the comments—is making specific win-loss predictions in for each game. Today we’re focusing on the second chunk of the Panthers schedule.
We know vanishingly little about this team right now and we may not know much more until we see the first four games have played out. Time and again we’ve seen a preseason success or failure translate into a consistent, polar opposite trait in the regular season. But we should have a fair handle on them by the time they travel to Michigan to take on the Detroit Lions in Week 5. This could be the make or break section of the Panthers schedule. All four of these teams have the potential to be either to good or surprisingly better than last year. A skid in the first four weeks could become a full slide here. A promising start could become a streak.
Regardless, a Week 7 bye will give the new coaching staff an early opportunity to reassess their initial assumptions about this team and—for what would feel like a franchise first—make adjustments going forwards.
2023 Pro Bowler Jared Goff will likely start the season as the Lions quarterback and he would have to have a VIP seat on the struggle bus for them to pull him by Week 5 in favor of rookie Hendon Hooker—a 2023 third round pick still recovering from a 2022 ACL tear. The Lions were an up-and-coming team under head coach Dan Campbell last season who saw a little of their shine knocked off by a run-in with last season’s ground heavy Panthers team.
Campbell won’t have any trouble getting his team motivated for this game and spent his offseason drafting a coterie of athletic skill position players, showing that he isn’t rebuilding a team so much as ready to make it go faster.
Every game is going to come down to how well Bryce Young is playing, but this game in particular may lean the least on that theme. The Panthers defense, a complete mystery to fans right now, might end up telling this story.
Miami under second year head coach Mike McDaniels and fourth year quarterback Tua Tagovailoa are looking to be, if not a perennial contender in a stacked AFC, then a tough out for any opponent. They brought in new defensive coordinator Vic Fangio (a once-favorite amongst many here at CSR) to shore up their biggest weakness from last year and are looking to continue their considerable momentum from last year’s offense. In short, these will probably be some of the longest odds the Panthers face all season.
The biggest blessing, such as it is, that the Panthers will see here is that they are tucked between two much bigger games on the Dolphins schedule. Week 5 for the Dolphins is against the New York Giants and Week 7 is at the Philadelphia Eagles. It’s not too much of a trap game as the Panthers are just the middle of three out of conference games, but it’s what they’ve got to work with here.
The Panthers vs themselves is always one of the most pivotal weeks of the season. It will be early yet to get anybody back from a surprise injury, but there may be actual coaching that takes place. That is assuming, of course, that head coach Frank Reich doesn’t plan on going on vacation instead, only to return and suddenly fire his offensive coordinator.
Here’s to hoping the Panthers don’t lose this week again.
This stretch of games concludes with back-to-back home games—a gift coming off of the bye—against the other top two quarterbacks from the 2023 NFL Draft. C.J. Stroud versus Bryce Young will certainly invite all kinds of comparisons and judgments.
I’ll caution now, because it won’t do any good at the time, that year one is too early to pass final judgement on the vast majority of draft picks. That goes for both Young and Stroud.
While the Colts selected Anthony Richardson fourth overall in the 2023 NFL Draft, there is no guarantee that he’ll play this season. They have made significant noise about getting him early playing time and would obviously love if he were ready to play over veteran Gardner Minshew.
Given how raw Richardson is as a passer, this is another game where I will caution you now to not put too much stock in quarterback performance for this game. We really won’t know who “won” the top of the 2023 draft for a couple of years.
The biggest thing for the Panthers season is they get two home games off of the bye against two teams who are also settling in new quarterbacks and new coaches. Nothing is guaranteed, but this is an opportunity for the team to build momentum.