CHARLOTTE, NC (WNCN) — It doesn’t look like the COVID-19 pandemic will interfere with football season and the NFL announcing schedules for all 32 of its teams confirms that notion.
For the Panthers, their journey to bounce back from an abysmal 5-11 will be an uphill battle as they deal with an entirely new coaching staff and possibly a new starting quarterback.
As it goes every season, the Panthers will meet their divisional foes — Buccaneers, Saints and Falcons — twice each and will play opponents from the NFC North and the AFC West. They get the Washington Redskins and Arizona Cardinals as its “extra” games.
Over the last four seasons, the Panthers are 7-17 against the NFC South.
Carolina is 12-12 all-time against the AFC West. The Panthers went 1-3 against the division in 2016, but swept the group in 2008.
The Panthers are 18-18 against NFC North teams all-time, however they’ve gone 14-10 in the seasons where they played the full slate of NFC North teams.
Here are three matchups you’ll want to see this season:
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Carolina Panthers
Any other year, this would just be another matchup in the NFC South, but the Bucs have a new sheriff in town.
Tom Brady signed with Tampa Bay after 20 seasons with the New England Patriots. If that wasn’t enough, the team added Rob Gronkowski, another former Patriots player.
This game should be a worthy litmus test of where the Panthers stack up among the other good teams in the league.
The Buccaneers have tons of firepower offensively and is continuing to add pieces to what is one of the youngest defensive groups in the NFL.
Carolina, who added some offensive firepower of their own should have no problem attempting to keep up. Instead, the game will likely come down to how the Panthers stop Brady from firing on all cylinders to his plethora of NFL Pro Bowl and All-Pro receiving targets.
Since these two teams will play twice, we’ll get to see how the Panthers adjust to what Brady and co. will bring.
The last time the Panthers met Brady, they won. But the times and teams are different.
Las Vegas Raiders @ Carolina Panthers
It will be the first season for the Raiders playing in Las Vegas so this game made the list by default.
Every team who plays the Raiders this season will likely play with a bit of extra motivation to make the team’s first season in a new home the worst it could be.
The Panthers should be no different — even better it will be the season and home opener for the team.
Both teams are fresh off of disappointing seasons, but also get a fresh start.
No, this won’t matter come game time, but based on team strengths, this game should be fun to watch.
Any game featuring Jon Gruden and his many facial expressions and gestures should just be worth tuning into anyway.
Carolina Panthers @ Washington Redskins
Ron Rivera revenge game here.
The Panthers will face off against its former longtime head coach when they take on the Washington Redskins.
Ron Rivera took a piece of the Panthers with him to the nation’s capitol, adding former coaches and players from the team.
It’s only up in season two for Redskins quarterback Dwayne Haskins, right? The Ohio State alum will be counted on heavily for team success in Rivera’s first season.
2020 will mark the third-straight season that Carolina has faced off against the Redskins, the first time the two teams have played three years in a row since 2001 in the old divisional alignment.
There are still a few holdovers from Rivera’s tenure in Charlotte, so carving out a pregame plan should be interesting. Don’t look at that as a determining factor for the game’s outcome because both teams are much different than their 2019 selves.
More than anything, it will be the allure of seeing Rivera up and down the opposite end the sideline that will have eyes on this game.
Many Panthers fans were surprised and a bit upset to see Rivera go, so for fans, you’ll have a dilemma on your hands.