Panthers reporter David Newton is predicting a 9-7 finish:
Sept. 8: vs. L.A. Rams, Loss
Sept. 12: vs. Tampa Bay (TNF), Win
Sept. 22: at Arizona, Win
Sept. 29: at Houston, Loss
Oct. 6: vs. Jacksonville, Win
Oct. 13: vs. Tampa Bay in London, Win
Oct. 27: at San Francisco, Win
Nov. 3: vs. Tennessee, Win
Nov. 10: at Green Bay, Loss
Nov. 17: vs. Atlanta, Win
Nov. 24: at New Orleans, Loss
Dec. 1: vs. Washington, Win
Dec. 8: at Atlanta, Loss
Dec. 15: vs. Seattle, Loss
Dec. 22: at Indianapolis, Loss
Dec. 29: vs. New Orleans, Win
Strength of schedule: .502, 16th
Coach Ron Rivera often talks about measuring-stick games and respect. That makes this his ideal schedule. The measuring stick on how good the Panthers can be comes in the opener against the defending NFC champion Los Angeles Rams. How the Panthers handle this game and a quick turnaround against Tampa Bay will go a long way toward setting the tone for the season. The respect comes from the league not scheduling Carolina with a Monday or Sunday night prime-time game. You can bet Rivera will use that for motivation.
The schedule-makers liked the drama of Carolina facing New Orleans twice in the final three weeks last season so much that they almost pulled a repeat. The NFC South rivals play each other twice in the final five weeks, including the finale in Charlotte, so if the division comes down to these two, as some predict, there will be plenty of intrigue. Maybe even big enough to get flipped to prime time. Winning two of the three games before that against Atlanta, Seattle and Indianapolis in what is Carolina’s toughest stretch might be more important to making the finale significant.
For the first time in team history, the Panthers will travel abroad for a game. The 9:30 a.m. Oct. 13 NFC South game against Tampa Bay at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London will be a homecoming for defensive end Efe Obada, a Nigerian-born player who grew up in foster homes around the city after being left homeless there at the age of 8. The game will come during a four-game stretch that also includes Jacksonville, San Francisco and Tennessee, a stretch the Panthers may need to sweep to make the playoffs.