Does the NFL have something against the Carolina Panthers playing their season opener at home? This seems to be the case — at least previously.
This is the first time since the 2013 season — and the second time since Ron Rivera took charge at Carolina eight years ago — that the Panthers play their first match of the season at the Bank of America Stadium. They will be hosting the Dallas Cowboys on September 9th.
Maybe the NFL’s game calendar makers finally forgot how Rivera had questioned their decision in 2016 when Carolina had to kick off the season at the Broncos in a repeat of Super Bowl 50 that was staged approximately eight months before.
At that time, Rivera had felt that the defending NFC winners deserved to open at their home ground. He didn’t like the league’s decision to make Carolina relive their 24-10 defeat at the hands of Denver all offseason.
So this year the NFL rewarded the Panthers with about as high a profile opener as any team could hope for; against America’s Team.
Having said that, below we give a game-by-game analysis of how Carolina will likely fare in the upcoming season:
Week 1: Sunday, September 9th, 2018, vs. Dallas Cowboys, 4:25 p.m. ET
Whenever the Cowboys come to town, it causes a lot of excitement. This causes an even greater mix of feelings when it’s the initial game of the season, leading to a countrywide broadcast. But then there is another twist: remember when Norv Turner held the offensive coordinator position at Dallas and helped QB Troy Aikman and running back Emmitt Smith turn into Hall of Famers? It may sound like ages ago. But the 65-year old Turner is still attempting to work out his magic, this time with Cam Newton and Christian McCaffrey. Record: 1-0
Week 2: Sunday, September 16th, 2018, at Atlanta Falcons, 1 p.m. ET
The Falcons have four out of five wins in this series since ending the Panthers’ run at a perfect record with two matches still to play in 2015. We expect this trend to continue. Record: 1-1
Week 3: Sunday, September 23rd, 2018, vs. Cincinnati Bengals, 1 p.m. ET
Carolina and the Bengals played to a 37-37 draw the last time they clashed; that is in the 2014 season in Cincinnati. You can almost be sure that this one won’t end up into another tie. Record: 2-1
Week 4: BYE
Week 5: Sunday, October 7th, 2018, vs. New York Giants, 1 p.m. ET
The New York Giants general manager Dave Gettleman comes back to the stadium where he helped develop Carolina into a Super Bowl finalist in 2015 and repeat playoff contenders. While he will most likely stop by one of his most loved restaurants in Dilworth, he still won’t be expected to explain to anyone why Panthers ex-owner Jerry Richardson relieved him of his duties the week prior to last season’s training camp. Record: 3-1
Week 6: Sunday, October 14th, 2018, at Washington Redskins, 1 p.m. ET
At this point, the reviews for Redskins cornerback Josh Norman in the series “Dancing With The Stars” will be out. Either his ex-colleagues at Carolina will be ragging him at this time or having to cope up with his bragging. By the time of the clash, Washington will know whether Alex Smith was worth Kirk Cousins’ place. Record: 4-1
Week 7: Sunday, October 21st, 2018, at Philadelphia Eagles, 1 p.m. ET
Philadelphia may have triumphed in the Super Bowl a year ago, but they didn’t achieve this by trading as they did with the Panthers prior to free agency. While Carolina got Torrey Smith, a reliable wide receiver with great leadership abilities, the Eagles, on their part, took cornerback Daryl Worley, who just recently was released after he had been arrested earlier when the police discovered him drunk and passed out in his car. He was also found with an unlicensed firearm. Aside from Worley’s woes, the Philadelphia Eagles deserved their Super Bowl win. Record: 4-2
Week 8: Sunday, October 29th, 2018, vs. Baltimore Ravens, 1 p.m. ET
Maybe the new Carolina owner David Tepper will choose this match to retire Steve Smith’s jersey, the franchise’s all-time top receiver who joined Baltimore following his release by the Panthers in 2014. That season, Smith had anticipated a “blood & guts” clash when he came up against his former side. Sure, he could have been mad, but this could be that “love & forgiveness” moment. Record: 5-2
Week 9: Sunday, November 4th, 2018, vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1 p.m. ET
Last season, Jameis Winston gave a pre-match speech before their Week 9 brawl against New Orleans in which he formed a W shape with his fingers and made as if to eat it. When he couldn’t completely finish off Carolina in December — enabling them to secure a playoff position in the process — their team website mocked him using the picture of a cake formed like a W that vanished bite by bite. The 24-year old won’t be able to finish this off as well. Record: 6-2
Week 10: Thursday, November 8th, 2018, at Pittsburgh Steelers, 8:30 p.m. ET
Rivera is certainly not a big fan of Thursday night matches. But this time he has no choice as he willl have to lead the Panthers against one of AFC’s most formidable opponents on a Thursday — away from home! Besides, Carolina typically doesn’t do well on a short week. Record: 6-3
Week 11: Sunday, November 18th, 2018, at Detroit Lions, 1 p.m. ET
The two teams clash in the Motor City for the second year running. Detroit-born Devin Funchess had a huge match with up to seven catches for 53 yards and one touchdown a year ago as Carolina triumphed. He was dependable off the field, too, tipping a number of reporters to what he termed the best wings in town. They actually were. Record: 7-3
Week 12: Sunday, November 25th, 2018, vs. Seattle Seahawks, 1 p.m. ET
Although Seattle is currently retooling, Russell Wilson always appears to be a thorn in the Panthers’ side. The two teams have clashed seven times since Wilson entered the NFL back in 2012, with the Seahawks having come out winners five times. Make it six. Record: 7-4
Week 13: Sunday, December 2nd, 2018, at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1 p.m. ET
Almost every year, you keep hearing many predict that this is going to be the year that the Bucs will break into the playoff scene. But it hasn’t come to pass since 2007, and there is no reason to expect anything different this year. Record: 8-4
Week 14: Sunday, December 9th, 2018, at Cleveland Browns, 1 p.m. ET
The typical cold spell of December could work to the Browns advantage here. But hey, they didn’t win even a single game last year. So, does weather really matter? Record: 9-4
Week 15: Monday, December 17th, 2018, vs. New Orleans Saints, 8:30 p.m. ET
Monday Night Football is Newton’s favorite. Last season he spent part of a news conference prior to a prime-time contest against Miami discussing the iconic MNF song that was performed by Hank Williams Jr. and how he had planned to don a cowboy hat to the match. That Monday he threw four touchdowns, rushing for 95 yards in the process to top his MNF record to 5-1. Expect him to bring out his best this time as well. Record: 10-4