Now that we know the exact 2012 Carolina Panthers schedule, it's time to speculate about wins and losses.
Last year the Panthers went 6-10, but second-year quarterback Cam Newton should have Carolina moving in the right direction in 2012.
Week 1: Sun., Sept. 9 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 4:15 p.m. ET
Carolina was fortunate enough last season to face Tampa Bay twice while the Buccaneers were in free-fall mode. The Panthers won both contests and should start the 2012 campaign in the same fashion. Prediction: Win (1-0).
Week 2: Sun., Sept. 16 New Orleans Saints, 1:00 p.m. ET
Coming off a Week 1 road win, the last thing the Panthers really want to do is face the Saints. But that's what's going to happen, and it likely won't go well for Carolina. This game starts a brutal three-game stretch for the Panthers. Prediction: Loss (1-1).
Week 3: Thu., Sept. 20 New York Giants, 8:20 p.m. ET
Like I said, these last three weeks in September will be tough. In Week 2 the Panthers faced quarterback Drew Brees, here, in Week 3, they'll face Eli Manning. The fact that Carolina is playing its second home game of the season is of no value since both will be losses. Prediction: Loss (1-2).
Week 4: Sun., Sept. 30 at Atlanta Falcons, 1:00 p.m. ET
Cam Newton gets to return to his hometown of Atlanta for the second time in his professional career in Week 4. Last year his Panthers lost by two touchdowns as Newton coughed up three interceptions. Newton will likely be more of a factor in this game, but still won't lead his team to victory. Prediction: Loss (1-3).
Week 5: Sun., Oct. 7 Seattle Seahawks, 4:05 p.m. ET
Carolina will be facing a Seattle team that will have had to travel east twice on consecutive weekends. At least the schedule makers pushed this Week 5 game to 4:05 p.m., but the Panthers should still be able to break back into the win column here. Prediction: Win (2-3).
Week 6: Bye
Week 7: Sun., Oct 21 Dallas Cowboys, 1:00 p.m. ET
The toughest part of the Dallas schedule this season happens in its middle, right here in Week 7. The Cowboys will be coming off a tough road trip to Baltimore in Week 6 and then must turn right around and travel to Charlotte. The Panthers will be well rested, directly off their bye. Prediction: Win (3-3).
Week 8: Sun., Oct. 28 at Chicago Bears, 1:00 p.m. ET
Both the Bears and Panthers should be much improved in 2012, but the Bears have more firepower at this point. I think the Bears will score easier on the Panthers defense than Carolina will on Chicago's. Prediction: Loss (3-4).
Week 9: Sun., Nov. 4 at Washington Redskins, 1:00 p.m. ET
One of the aspects of this game that's going to be very appealing is to compare how Robert Griffin III (or Andrew Luck if the Colts change directions on draft day) is faring through his first eight weeks of his rookie season compared to Cam Newton last year. Prediction: Win (4-4).
Week 10: Sun., Nov. 11 Denver Broncos, 1:00 p.m. ET
Instead of facing Tim Tebow, the Broncos went out and signed quarterback Peyton Manning to run its offense. This isn't good news for Carolina, a team that allowed 28 touchdown passed to be thrown against them last year. Prediction: Loss (4-5).
Week 11: Sun., Nov. 18 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1:00 p.m. ET
I'm expecting Tampa Bay to have figured a few things out by now and to make this a close game. I still believe that Carolina will be ahead of the Buccaneers at this stage. Prediction: Win (5-5).
Week 12: Mon., Nov. 26 at Philadelphia Eagles, 8:30 p.m. ET
Two of the strongest armed, most mobile quarterbacks will face off in Week 12 on national television. The Eagles could be strong this year and should win this home game. Prediction: Loss (5-6).
Week 13: Sun., Dec. 2 at Kansas City Chiefs, 1:00 p.m. ET
Believe it or not, I really believe this will be a test of the 2012 season for Carolina. It's not going to be "the" test, but because of where it's located in the schedule, it will make or break the year. I believe the answer will be make. Prediction: Win (6-6).
Week 14: Sun., Dec. 9 Atlanta Falcons, 1:00 p.m. ET
By this point, Carolina will have lost five-straight to Atlanta, dating back to Week 10 of the 2009 season. Cam Newton will get the Atlanta monkey off his back here. Also, this is the first week of the season where Carolina will have a winning record. That's why last week's game against Kansas City was so important. Prediction: Win (7-6).
Week 15: Sun., Dec. 16 at San Diego Chargers, 4:05 p.m. ET
San Diego plays so much better in December than just about any other month of their season, historically. This game will be very close, so close that I think I would predict Carolina if the game were played in Charlotte. But, it's not. Prediction: Loss (7-7).
Week 16: Sun., Dec. 23 Oakland Raiders, 1:00 p.m. ET
After a tough loss to San Diego in Week 16—a game that could go either way—the Panthers get a little home cooking and host the Raiders. Prediction: Win (8-7).
Week 17: Sun., Dec. 30 at New Orleans Saints, 1:00 p.m. ET
So, the Panthers will be 8-7 and in need of a win to secure their first winning season 2008. Unfortunately, the last game on the schedule is the Saints and it's an away game for Carolina. Prediction: Loss (8-8).