The first prime-time game is in Week 3 and it's against the New York Giants, who (of course) are the defending Super Bowl champions.
This will be quite a test for the Carolina Panthers, considering the timing of this game.
In Week 1, the Panthers are scheduled to play against their division rivals, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who finished last in their division—the NFC South—in the prior season.
The Buccaneers are expected to be a lot more competitive this coming season though.
After making some big moves during the free agency, this matchup against the Panthers will not be as easy as it was for them last season. The Buccaneers recently acquired wide receiver Vincent Jackson and offensive guard Carl Nicks.
This first game is also an away game for the Panthers. Buc fans will surely fill up and energize their stadium at a level that may create some difficulties for Cam Newton and the Panthers. The pressure of it being the first game will also play a factor.
In Week 2, the Panthers will face another one of their division rivals, the New Orleans Saints. The good news is, the Saints will be without their head coach, Sean Payton, for the entire season and the Panthers will play them at home in Charlotte.
Also, the Saints will not have their interim head coach, Joe Vitt, until after Week 7.
The bad news for the Panthers is, the fact that they’ll have to play the Saints (a team that hasn’t been easy for the Panthers to beat in the last few seasons).
Though the Saints won't have their coaches, they'll still have Drew Brees. And although there are some current issues with Brees' contract with the Saints, it seems unreasonable to assume that the Saints will be without him this upcoming season.
The first two weeks are not going to be easy for the Panthers, which gives me all the more reason to assume that the first prime-time game for the Panthers will be especially difficult for them.
Sure, no one knows exactly what to expect in the first few weeks, but the Panthers are playing the Giants and they are playing them really early.
If the Panthers show any signs of weakness in the first two weeks, then they’ll be in for quite a match against Eli Manning and the Giants in their first prime-time game.
Hopefully, that does not happen.
The Panthers will play their second prime-time game against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 12.
There are plenty of reasons to be especially excited about this game.
Since this game is in Week 12, the Panthers and the Eagles will be well enough into their season that this game may have playoff implications for both of these teams.
All eyes will also be on the matchup between Michael Vick and Cam Newton. Both of these quarterbacks have similar styles; they are both strong runners and have shown they can make some impressive throws.
Another thing to keep in mind about this Eagles game is, the Panthers will be at a point in their season where everyone can really assess whether or not Cam will have a sophomore slump.
If Cam doesn’t play well in the first three weeks, then we can blame it on a slow start. But, there will be no excuses for him in Week 12.
My prediction is the Panthers will likely lose their first prime-time game against the Giants, but will actually come out with a win against the Eagles.
This may sound strange, considering the first prime-time game will be at home and the second will be on the road.
However, I believe the Giants will be too difficult to beat that early in the season and there are not many reasons to believe that the Eagles will be much better than they were last season.
At least, not yet.
With that said, I think the Panthers will definitely be a better team than they were last season and they’ll show that on Monday Night Football against the Eagles.
But, I’d like to open up the floor to you guys and see what you think.
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