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 home stretch of the Panthers schedule.
Who wants to take bets on whether or not the fanbase will still be engaged at this point? I think so, but it’s a hard thing to believe in after five straight disappointing seasons. And it’s not like those came after a period of constant relevance for the Panthers.
Still, this is supposed to be a new team. There is an exciting new coaching staff built of more expert minds around the offensive side of the ball than the Carolinas have ever seen. They’re building a brand new offense that is informed by some recently successful philosophies and have the first overall pick from the 2023 NFL draft to run it. There is cause for hope.
How that hope will translate into the end of this season is a much more complex question. Will the team be in the running for the division title? Will 8-9 be good enough for a wildcard? I don’t know, but let’s take a look at the end of the season schedule and see what we can figure.
Week 14: at New Orleans Saints
Week 15: vs Atlanta Falcons
Week 16: at Green Bay Packers
Week 17: at Jacksonville Jaguars
Week 18: vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The last five games of the season are when the playoff scenarios will start to really go off the rails, assuming that the Panthers have won at least 6 of their previous twelve games. I think that is a reasonable assumption to make. With three of the five on the road, but two of the three divisional games at home, the Panthers have a mediocre schedule. There is no international or even west coast travel and they don’t have any short weeks. It’s not great, but it could be way worse.
By Week 14, we’ll have some idea as to how the Derek Carr experiment is working out in New Orleans. Remember, quarterbacks who don’t need help rarely leave their original teams and these Saints are the team that provided fertile ground for Drew Brees’ renaissance. I’ll worry about the Saints when they show me they are worth worrying about. Of course, the same still goes for the Panthers.
Hosting the Falcons at home after opening the season in Atlanta will give the Panthers an opportunity for any necessary revenges that need to be visited upon the Dirty Birds after Bryce Young’s debut. That is to say that this game could also go either way. I’m expecting every team in the NFC South to finish 3-3 in the division with a 1-1 record against each opponent. This game should go which ever way the season opener did not.
Who is Jordan Love? Really, though, I’m asking. The Packers have a lot of people asking this question. Managing expectations for this game means not having expectations until we’ve seen Love play at least a whole game.
It was really kind of the NFL to schedule a second bye-week for the Panthers so late in the season. That’s not to say that the Jaguars won’t be a challenging opponent, just that an out-of-conference opponent who the Panthers do not share in common with the rest of their division is literally as low stakes as a game can be.
Yeah, I’m talking about playoffs again.
I get to do that right now. I won’t get to when the team is 3-5 and then I get to start again when they inexplicably bounce back to 8-7. If that sounds weird or unusual to you then welcome. Pick up a boberry biscuit and an iced tea, someone will be by to orient you to the Carolina Panthers shortly.
As for this game itself, it should be actually be a good one. Like, drive down to Jacksonville and spend too much on beer for a Sunday afternoon kind of good. Relax, is what I’m saying. Forget the context and enjoy the show.
And here it is. The Panthers will get to play the Bucs for the NFC South at the end of the season once again. The biggest difference this year will be at quarterback. That’s right, Baker Mayfield has a chance to actually see the field in this game. Unless the Bucs front office grew a sense of humor and trade him to the Rams at the deadline.
There’s also the little change on the Panthers side: Young is an infinitely more talented quarterback than Carolina fielded at any point in 2022. He is more talented than any quarterback on the Bucs Roster at this time. I really hate to say I’m feeling good about this team, but I think I’m feeling good about this team. It sounds weird after how I started this article, but the more I think about the 2023 Carolina Panthers the better I feel about their chances. And I say that with full knowledge that we have no idea what this offense is going to look like in motion.
I expect the Panthers to win this game if they have a winning record. I expect that they will win this game if they have only won one game so far and the Bucs are 16-0 coming in. Anything in between and I’m just praying for a tie. Sound about right?