For the first time in a long time, I am not looking forward to the Panthers season in 2020. This off-season was a roller coaster of emotions for me and I detailed my frustration with the franchise a few weeks back.
Cam Newton will no longer be taking snaps at quarterback and Ron Rivera will no longer be on the sidelines. The departures of Luke Kuechly, Eric Reid, James Bradberry and Greg Olsen pointed towards the direction of a rebuild in Carolina but that vision became murky after the signings of Teddy Bridgewater and Robby Anderson.
While it is still unclear what direction the Panthers are heading in this season, the team released its’ schedule Thursday night which gave me little excitement only because there is little to nothing going on in the sports world. Let’s take a look at how the season could playout for the Panthers this year.
Week 1: 9/13 vs Las Vegas Raiders 1pm ET
The Panthers will be first the team to play the Raiders under their new name. It will also be head coach Matt Rhule’s first game of his career and with many Panthers fans frustrated with the franchise, I think he will come out the gates hot. I expect to see a few trick plays, fancy play calling from Joe Brady and going for it on fourth down, which I think will lead to a tight victory.
Week 2: 9/20 @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1pm ET
The Panthers defense is very young this year and they will be outmatched by Tom Brady, Mike Evans and company. Maybe there is hope of it being a close game early on in the year as Brady will still be developing chemistry with his new targets, but I don’t expect this one to be pretty.
Week 3: 9/27 @ Los Angeles Chargers 4:05pm ET
The Panthers visit my neck of the woods in Southern California and will have a fairly even matchup with the Chargers. Depending on who is starting for the Bolts at quarterback, this game can go one of two ways. If Tyrod Taylor is given the nod, Chargers win a defensive battle something like 10-6. If Herbert is given the starting nod, expect the Panthers defense to get a few turnovers and pull out a close 13-10 type victory. I’m pulling for you Herbert.
Week 4: 10/4 vs Arizona Cardinals 1pm ET
I know the Cardinals weren’t that impressive their first season with Kyler Murray or Cliff Kingsbury but I think they’re in for a big jump year two. DeAndre Hopkins, Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk will be too hot to handle for the Panther young secondary, which will lead to a rather lopsided defeat at Bank of America.
Week 5: 10/11 @ Atlanta Falcons 1pm ET
The Panthers haven’t won in Atlanta in five years and I expect that trend to continue. It will be the battle of two very mediocre teams but the ‘Dirty Birds’ edge out Carolina in a close 30-24 game.
Week 6: 10/18 vs Chicago Bears 1pm ET
The Panthers get a gift here at home as they face a Bears team that is falling apart. By week six, the Panthers defensive front will have found their groove and create havoc for Nick Foles and company at home. This probably has the makings of Christian McCaffrey’s biggest game of the season with over 200 all-purpose yards as they run away with a victory.
Week 7: 10/25 @ New Orleans Saints 1pm ET
Saints should win this one pretty easily but it will not be the blowout everyone is expecting. I like Bridgewater’s chances against his former team and in the dome he is very familiar with. If Brees were to get hurt and Winston started this game, now the Panthers would have a fighting chance. Don’t get your hopes up though.
Week 8: 10/29 vs Atlanta Falcons 8:20pm ET
Panthers get a primetime Thursday Night Football game at Bank of America stadium only to be smothered on live television by their division rival. I am not a fan of this game right after playing the Saints in New Orleans while the Falcons get an easy victory versus the Lions the Sunday prior.
Week 9: 11/8 @ Kansas City Chiefs 1pm ET
Will the Chiefs set the new record for most points scored in a game this week? Probably not, but they will get close to breaking that record and a few others this game. Donte Jackson and Troy Pride Jr are going to have a long afternoon trying to cover Tyreek Hill and company. Bless their souls.
Week 10: 11/15 vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1pm ET
If Tom Brady and the Buccaneers offense is healthy, this should be another steamroll for the visiting team at Bank of America stadium. It might be a little too early in the season for the “We want PJ (Walker)” chants but fans will start contemplating it. Panthers are 0-5 right now against their division.
Week 11: 11/22 vs Detroit Lions 1pm ET
Sorry, Carl, these two teams are a lot more evenly matched than you think. In fact, in the battle of big cats, I’m going to go out of the limb and predict a tie here. The Panthers last tied against the Cincinnati Bengals (another big cat) in 2014 and set the record for the highest-scoring tie ever – 37-37. I think Matthew Stafford and Bridgewater look to break that record and finish tied 38-38 after both teams settle for field goals in the overtime period.
Week 12: 11/29 @ Minnesota Vikings 1pm ET
Kirk Cousins has been getting ripped by the national media the prior few weeks and decides to take his frustration out on the Carolina secondary. After this week, no one in the national media doubts whether or not Cousins is a top tier starting quarterback, but Panthers fans start questioning whether or not Matt Rhule is suited to be an NFL head coach.
Week 14: 12/13 vs Denver Broncos 1pm ET
Rhule and Brady re-think their strategy during the bye week and come out ‘guns-a-blazing’ against an unexpecting Broncos team. Newcomers Robby Anderson and Tahir Whitehead have big games, while Brian Burns collects two sacks on Drew Lock running the Broncos out of the AFC playoff picture.
Week 15: 12/19 or 12/20 @ Green Bay Packers TBD
After coming inches short of the end zone in the final seconds of their 2019 matchup, McCaffrey comes out with a vengeance and serves it up to the Packers defense. Mid-game, Aaron Rodgers argues with head coach Matt LaFleur and decides to pull himself out of the game leaving Bryce Love in a tough predicament. However, Love pulls off a miraculous comeback leaving Packers fans and Rodgers in awe. McCaffrey’s 300+ scrimmage yards are forgotten about in the defeat.
Week 16: 12/27 vs Washington 1pm ET
Ron Rivera gets a tribute video and a surprising 20-minute standing ovation before the game, which softens up his gameplan. Both offenses struggle to score but Rhule rolls the dice and throws in Walker to play quarterback after halftime. Walker creates some magic late in the second half and leads the Panthers to a 10-3 victory over Washington.
Week 17: 1/3 vs New Orleans Saints 1pm ET
Per usual, the Saints have clinched their playoff spot and are resting most of their starters. Winston starts the game and throws a few easy interceptions for the Panthers defense. Rhule decides to start Bridgewater and after the team pulls away with a big lead at halftime, subs in Walker at quarterback to finish the game. Walker ‘wows’ the home crowd one more time and once again, the Panthers enter the off-season with a big question mark on who will the starter be going forward.
Love or hate these predictions? Let me know what you think below. And if you are thinking about attending the Panthers game against the Chargers, hit me up.