Carolina Panthers: 2020 Schedule Preview

This Panthers season likely won’t be anything special, but it will tell the team a few things about themselves moving forward. Teddy Bridgewater’s play will determine whether the Panthers take a quarterback early in the draft next season, and with Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields at the top of draft boards already, Bridgewater needs to prove that he is the present and future of the franchise. 

Personally, I like Teddy in Joe Brady’s offense and I think that if he can develop a consistent deep ball, he will be the future of the franchise. However, that is a big contingency to the success of this team with speedsters like DJ Moore and Robby Anderson on the outside. If Bridgewater helps the team to a record that would put them out of reach of one of those two players, his job is likely safe. If not, anything could happen. 

Otherwise, this Panthers season will revolve around developing the young talent on the defensive end and creating chemistry on offense. Four of the seven defensive players from this past draft class will most likely start next season, so developing those guys and getting that defensive unit primed to take over the league in a few years’ time should be the Panthers’ goal for this upcoming season. So, let’s take a look at what the schedule holds for this squad.

Week 1: Sunday, Las Vegas Raiders, 1:00 EST- W (1-0)

JJ

Teddy Bridgewater and this offense need to make a statement in this opener, and I think they will do just that. The Raiders are a very young team with an unproven defensive unit and a shaky quarterback situation. Sounds a bit familiar, right? Not only does Bridgewater want to earn his job, but the entire coaching staff does too. I think the Panthers walk all over that Raiders defense. I don’t think the Panthers defense will fare very well against Josh Jacobs and Henry Ruggs, but I see the Panthers pulling out the W with a little help from the brilliant offensive mind of Joe Brady.

Week 2: Sunday, @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1:00 EST- L (1-1)

As much as I would love to see Tom Brady get whooped by a 27-year-old quarterback and a 30-year-old offensive coordinator, I just don’t think it’s going to happen in Week 2. Brady may need a cane to walk by mid-season, but his receivers surely won’t. I just don’t think the Panthers’ secondary will be able to match up with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin this time around. The Tampa crowd will be going crazy, especially in Week 2, and the team won’t allow themselves to lose a division game that early in the season.

Week 3: Sunday, @ Los Angeles Chargers, 4:05 EST- L (1-2)

Unlike the Bucs, the Chargers won’t have the fans to thank for this win (because they don’t have any), but I still don’t think the Panthers will pull this one out. The Chargers’ pass rush is going to be a lot to handle for the Panthers offensive line to handle and their secondary is top-5 in the league. It will take about 200 total yards from Christian McCaffrey to win this game, and even though that’s possible, I wouldn’t bank on it. As an LA native and a Panthers fan, this is going to be a tough one for me to watch. 

Week 4: Sunday, Arizona Cardinals, 1:00 EST- L (1-3)

Derrick Brown and Kawaan Short could probably flatten Kyler Murray into their own personal coaster to use by the pool in Phoenix, but this Cardinals team is just too strong. I think this game will be closer than most people think, though. The Cardinals’ offensive line is going to have a really difficult time with the young-stud Panthers run stoppers, but the Cardinals passing game has too many weapons for the Panthers secondary to contain. I think this will be an offensive shootout and the Cardinals will come out on top.

Week 5: Sunday, @ Atlanta Falcons, 1:00 EST- W (2-3)

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Spoilers, the Falcons will disappoint again this year. Todd Gurley isn’t durable and their defense did not improve much from last season, which basically just means they still suck. Julio Jones is going to feast off of the Panthers secondary, but I also predict that DJ Moore will give AJ Terrell a nice welcome to the league with 100+ yards and 2 TDs. Joe Brady knows how to play the Falcons from his time with the Saints, and Kawaan Short and Derrick Brown will shut down Gurley on the other side of the ball. This game could honestly go either way, but I think the Panthers will get the W in this divisional matchup.

Week 6: Sunday, vs Chicago Bears, 1:00 EST- W (3-3)

The Bears don’t even have a quarterback… or do they have 2? Well, I suppose it depends on how you look at it. The way I see it, the Panthers defense is weak and unproven; the Bears have 2 awful players that wait behind the center for the ball (I can’t call them quarterbacks) and their run game is sub-par. So, as young as the Panthers defense is, they have the raw talent to compete against this abysmal Bears offense. Their defense isn’t the easiest to beat, but Joe Brady is a master of scheming guys open, and don’t forget, the Panthers still have the best running back in the league in Christian McCaffrey. I don’t think Carolina will have a difficult time getting the win in this game.

Week 7: Sunday, @ New Orleans Saints, 1:00 EST- L (3-4)

This one you had to have seen coming. The last two years of Drew Brees aren’t going to be like Peyton Manning’s last go-round. First of all, Brees’ forehead is much smaller, and second of all, Brees has plenty left in the tank and he’s got a mean-looking squad around him. The Saints are essentially playing their own offense with some tweaks worked in there. Brady uses a lot of the same schemes and Sean Payton will know exactly how to play that. Not to mention, the Saints are simply better than the Panthers at almost every position. That should be enough to close this case.

Week 8: Thursday, vs Atlanta Falcons, 8:20 EST- W (4-4)

Spoilers part two, the Falcons still suck. Every year since Super Bowl LI, people have hyped up this team, and they have flopped almost every time. Dan Quinn clearly isn’t getting it done and this team has a lot of holes. This year, the second and third levels of this defense should just lay down on the ground and let ESPN use them as the red carpet for the ESPYs; their new uniforms would even match the color.

That’s the equivalent of what’s going to happen on that field this year. I’m not even saying that the Panthers are better than the Falcons. I am saying that their strengths will exploit the Falcons’ weaknesses. The Panthers’ wideouts are criminally underrated and are going to torch this Falcons defense for the second time this season.

Week 9: Sunday, @ Kansas City Chiefs, 1:00 EST- L (4-5)

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Alright, I’ll keep this one brief. The defending Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs are a lot better than the Carolina Panthers in almost every aspect of the game. Therefore, they will win this game. I think that about sums it up.

Week 10: Sunday, vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1:00 EST- W (5-5)

As a young team with a lot of rookie starters, I expect the Panthers to only get better as the season goes on and this game against the Buccaneers will prove that. Personally, I’m not buying into the hype about the Bucs. I won’t unpack everything, but Brady’s production has declined dramatically over the past three years and his durability at 43 won’t improve behind this Bucs offensive line.

I think these young-stud defensive linemen of the Panthers kick the cane out from under Brady’s grasp and stick it… well, I’ll let your imagination work it out from there. I think Phil Snow will have a game plan going into this one that will effectively slow down their passing game and I see the Panthers winning as the very heavy underdogs. 

Week 11: Sunday, vs Detroit Lions, 1:00 EST- W (6-5)

The Lions don’t look half bad on paper this year, but again, the Panthers’ strengths will exploit their weaknesses. In short, McCaffrey is going to trample them like a Trophy Hunter. The Lions were the 23rd ranked run defense in the league last year, and other than Danny Shelton, there were no significant additions made. Julian Okwara was a great pick, but he has a very recent injury history and won’t be a huge impact in Year 1.

The Lions also have a subpar offensive line, and with this talent-ridden defensive line of the Panthers, the walking injury named Matthew Stafford won’t last too long back there. I see the Panthers winning this one with a strong performance from McCaffrey and a dominant game from the defensive line.

Week 12: Sunday, @ Minnesota Vikings, 1:00 EST- L (6-6)

It’s honestly hard to say how the Vikings will fare this season after the number of changes they endured this offseason, but I still think they will get the better of the Panthers. Danielle Hunter, Michael Pierce, and rising star Ifeadi Odenigbo are more than enough to overpower the mediocre Panthers’ offensive line.

McCaffrey will also likely have a difficult time against the first and second levels of the defense, and if he gets taken out of the game, it’s over for the Panthers. This will be one of those games where the other team just has all the tools to win, and there will be very little the Panthers can do to stop it.

Week 13: BYE

Week 14: Sunday, vs Denver Broncos, 1:00 EST- L (6-7)

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The Broncos’ passing attack is going to overwhelm the Panthers’ secondary. I just don’t think the Panthers are going to put up enough points to compete against this Broncos team. Drew Lock is a LOCK to be the next breakout sophomore quarterback. Okay, I know that was corny, but my point still stands. The Broncos are going to turn some heads this year, and the Panthers don’t have the defensive unit to stop them. 

Week 15: Sunday, @ Green Bay Packers, TBD- L (6-8)

Just because the Packers didn’t draft help for Aaron Rodgers doesn’t mean he’s no longer Aaron Rodgers. This dude probably has the craziest highlight tape of any quarterback in the league. Rodgers is their offense, and as long as he’s on that field, this Panthers’ secondary is going to have a problem. The Packers also have a lot of talent in their secondary, regardless of how they played last season, and I think this is the year they could put it all together. 

Furthermore, sometimes you have to take outside factors into account, and motivation is one of them. I can’t think of a single person more motivated than Aaron Rodgers this season. You know he wants to prove that front office wrong, to make them see that he’s the best Packers QB of all time and that he can still win against the best. In conclusion, the Packers are still good and Aaron Rodgers is going to shred the Panthers secondary to pieces. Thank you for listening to my Ted Talk.

Week 16: Sunday, @ Washington Redskins, 1:00 EST- W (7-8)

Soon-to-be-MVP Dwayne Haskins… couldn’t even make it through that. The Redskins are just an incomplete team. Their rebuild is going to take time and I don’t see them playing very well this season. The second and third levels of that defense were hard to watch last year, and I don’t expect much to change. McCaffrey is going to burn a Christian-shaped hole right through the middle of the Redskins defense and the Panthers will get a not-so-wanted win towards the end of the season that will hurt their draft stock.

Week 17: Sunday, vs New Orleans Saints, 1:00 EST- L (7-9)

Assuming the Saints don’t have their playoff seed locked in at this point, there isn’t much to say about this game. Everything that happened in their first meeting will happen again. If the Saints need this win to secure their playoff seed, the Panthers are getting trounced and even one of those magical stat-padding McCaffrey games won’t change that.

Conclusion

Overall, I think the Panthers will exceed expectations this year, which is kind of pathetic, seeing as I have them going 7-9. But, the over-under for their win total in Vegas is 5.5, so yeah, I would take the over. This Panthers team is young, but I think getting the rookies some experience out of the gate and Bridgewater building chemistry with his receivers will be huge for the team going forward. The Panthers won’t draft a quarterback next year, and in three years, with their insane young talent, the Panthers will be the top dog in the NFC South. Book that right now.

 

Sources:

https://www.footballoutsiders.com/stats/nfl/team-defense/2019  

https://www.footballoutsiders.com/stats/nfl/offensive-line/2019

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