« Panthers fill LB, secondary coaches' jobs | Main | Richardson out of hospital »

February 11, 2009

Opponents for '09: Brutally tough

One of the "perks" for having a winning season in the NFL is being rewarded with a schedule the next season that allows your team to measure itself against its peers.

Dates for the schedule won't be released until the summer, but the non-division home games are against Buffalo, Miami, Philadelphia, Washington and Minnesota. The Panthers will play at Dallas, Arizona, the Jets, the Giants and New England.

The Panthers, by virtue of their NFC South championship last season, will play a first-place schedule in 2009, as well as games based on the NFL's rotating division-vs.-division concept against each team from the NFC East and AFC East.

In short, especially compared to 2008, Panthers face a brutal schedule in '09.

The combined winning percentage of their 2009 opponents is 59 percent. The average '08 record of their '09 opponents is (rounding up) 10-6.

A few thoughts:

--  In 2008, The Panthers played a second-place schedule and against the AFC West and NFC North. Those opponents had a combined winning percentage of 48 percent entering the season. They ended up dipping to 46 percent -- thanks largely to the Detroit Lions' 0-16 record. But both those divisions were among the league's worst.

-- Just one 2009 opponent, the Buffalo Bills (7-9), had a losing record.

-- In 2009, not only do the Panthers play divisional champs Minnesota (10-6), Arizona (9-7) and the New York Giants (12-4), but they go into two of the NFL's tougher divisions -- the NFC and AFC Easts. The NFC East, like the Panthers' South, didn't have a team with a losing record. The AFC East only sent one team to the playoffs, but runner-up New England had an 11-5 record and the New York Jets were 9-7 and also missed out on making the postseason on the last day of the regular-season.

-- Then there is the NFC South, where each team was at least .500 last season. Atlanta's on the rise, New Orleans figures to have Reggie Bush healthy again and Tampa Bay is really the only question mark.

-- Miscellany: There are just two teams left in the league the Panthers have never beaten (Houston and Miami). They'll get a shot next season against the Dolphins...The Panthers will play twice at the Meadowlands, against the Jets and Giants...Carolina will play in the Dallas Cowboys' new stadium. -- David Scott 

Posted by Observer Sports on February 11, 2009 at 03:47 PM | Permalink


This schedule is about as ugly as it gets. There can't possibly be any other team in the NFL with a tougher schedule than this. We have got to bring some major players in here during free agency. I'd say going 9-7 or 8-8 and sneeking into the playoffs would be an accomplishment.

Posted by: Jed74 | Feb 11, 2009 4:20:24 PM

6-10 - maybe 7-9

Posted by: Pete | Feb 11, 2009 4:21:19 PM

If this is true and considering the easy schedule we had last year then it's a safe bet to say that Fox will be gone.

Posted by: Macdawgg | Feb 11, 2009 4:24:10 PM

If this is true and considering the easy schedule we had last year then it's a safe bet to say that Fox will be gone.

Posted by: Macdawgg | Feb 11, 2009 4:24:11 PM

hate to say this but the NFL is sooooo wishy washy that all those "hard" teams could SUCK next year....there's no gurantee that at the end of the season our schedule looks as hard as it does right now. it's like that every year in the NFL...who knows...next year those teams might be dreading playing us...GO PANTHERS!!!

Posted by: Clay | Feb 11, 2009 4:28:44 PM

Other teams are going to have to worry about us as well.

Posted by: Solitude1906 | Feb 11, 2009 4:33:55 PM

I am switching to baseball..Go Padres!

Posted by: Milton Moore | Feb 11, 2009 4:34:51 PM

This is why Bill Cowher did'nt take a job yet. He knows that after next year he can take a team that has everything but a QB, who will also be gone and a new d-line after Marty H fixes that this year. Ahh, cant wait for those post Big Mistake Jake years to go.

Posted by: Don Barbeau | Feb 11, 2009 4:35:40 PM

The 2009 schedule is the reason the Panthers have to make changes... yeah they went 12-4 last year, but that was achieved with a much easier schedule. Going to the playoffs has been the downfall of the Panthers the following year. They think they are extremely close personnel wise, but in reality they still have much improvement to make. Go back in their history, and you will see they tank the year after a playoff run. I attribute that totally to Fox and Hurney thinking they are closer to the top than they really are. I hope they don't make the same mistake again this offseason.

Posted by: Mike | Feb 11, 2009 4:40:15 PM

Well, think of the schedule like this, All of the teams in our division must play the same exact teams as us, except for two. Here is a better question than the one that was posed, which team in our division played the best? The Saints played a third place schedule and finished worse than us. The Falcons played a fourth place schedule and finished in second. The Bucs played a first place schedule and finished in third.
Who were the up an down the ladder teams? Panthers up from second to first, Falcons up from fourth to second, the Buc's down from first to third, and the Saints down from third to fourth. If you follow the trends from year to year, then you would see, as far as final divison standing, that the Panthers have been the most consistant.
The Panthers still had the best running tandem on offense and if they can shore up a struggling defense that still played as good, or better than the other divsion rivals, then the Panthers could/should finish at the top of the division again next year.
Atlanta should regress a little, and the Saints should finish better than the Buc's.
Next season's primary mission should be to simply win the division. Forget about a 12-4 repeat and just focus on beating the rivals and winning more games against the others than the closest competitor.

Posted by: Realistic Fan | Feb 11, 2009 4:44:07 PM

I agree with Clay. Other than the Giants and Patriots, most of those teams are probably one player (ie: QB) away from being losers or winners.
Vikings - no QB in sight yet
Eagles - without good-McNabb (as opposed to bad-McNabb, just like good-Jake/bad-Jake, except with a lot more upside), the Eagles are ordinary.
Miami - Pennington never puts together 2 consecutive good years.
Washington - another Jekyll and Hyde act. Who knows which version we'll meet.
Arizona - if Warner comes back, they'll be very good. With Leinart, they're definitely beatable.
Buffalo, and the Jets - more instability. Neither has a real viable QB option, and maybe Favre will carry on his circus long enough to sabotage their season.
Atlanta - they will definitely get first place, unless the QB goes down (as much as I want the Panthers to come first, I wouldn't wish that on him - he seems like a super QB and a great guy!).
New Orleans - they always seem to be perched on the edge, but for whatever reason always jump off.
Tampa - as with any team making major changes, might be really good or really bad. With their QB situation, I'd vote for really bad.

So there you have it. With a little luck (and a better defense and QB), the Panthers might have a chance to make the playoffs. Or they might just come dead last. Who knows? That's what makes it so exciting every new season!

Posted by: Wayne D | Feb 11, 2009 4:54:41 PM

Don Barbeau: You sir, know nothing.

We will be fine people, its February. Let everyone breath a little and let things fall into place. You all sound like Yankee and Cowboys fan (what have you done for me lately?). Why don't you look at how much Jake and our staff have done and be a little supportive.

Posted by: TrueFan | Feb 11, 2009 4:54:54 PM

Well, Pittsburgh played the toughest schedule this yr. Worked out OK for them. Let's play them one game at a time.

Posted by: Cat_in_Chicago | Feb 11, 2009 5:02:22 PM

Hopefully, we'll get Dallas near the end of the season when they're in they annual self destruct mode. It will be interesting to see how we fare next year with this schedule. I have to say I'll look forward to every game, after all, it's hard to get excited about playing Detroit and Oakland.

Posted by: C | Feb 11, 2009 5:02:58 PM

Remember - the Steelers had the toughest schedule going into last season... worked out OK for them.

Really, we're as good as anybody else in the NFC. If we play well, we'll be in the thick of it again. Play the schedule, stay healthy, and get hot at the end...

Posted by: MTB | Feb 11, 2009 5:04:04 PM

The team record has nothing to do with the schedule except for 2 games, the rest were setup years ago, they made the change back in 2005. The NFC South all play the NFC East and the AFC East this season then depending where you finished you play the NFC North rep (Minnesota) and the NFC West rep (Ari), how does someone who covers the NFL not know this. OH WAIT WE ARE TALKING ABOUT THE SPORTS DEPT AT THE OBSERVER!

Posted by: Mike | Feb 11, 2009 5:04:07 PM

and just fyi...we didn't have an easy schedule...the second half of the season we had the second hardest (first being Giants)...so it wasn't a cake walk...

Posted by: Clay | Feb 11, 2009 5:10:30 PM

The way the NFL schedules games leaves only two games a year that are affected by "strength of schedule." All teams have to play 6 games in their division, 4 games apiece in another NFC & AFC division. That only leaves 2 remaining games.

From the looks of it that means the Panthers have two opponents that differ from the rest of the NFC south, which if I read correctly are Minnesota and Arizona. Arizona was the NFC champs but had an up and down regular season at 9 & 7. Minnesota was 10 & 6. These were the two of the three worst division winners according to the regular season, with San Diego as the worst at 8 & 8.

What this means is that there are two games which are different than Tampa Bay, Atlanta, and New Orleans. Even if the two conferences are difficult, which the AFC & NFC east appear to be based on last year's regular season, the entire division will be dealing with it. Carolina could easily make it to the playoffs in the same way San Diego and Arizona did by WINNING their division.

I believe to much weight is placed on the strength of schedule argument since it only effects two games.

Posted by: Rob Sharpe | Feb 11, 2009 5:16:35 PM

On paper the schedule looks tough. Good thing the games are actually played on the field.

Posted by: TP | Feb 11, 2009 5:18:50 PM

this schedule will get Fox fired and Cowher in here. They can fire Fox after next season we have yet another losing season after a winning season, and after Defensives coaches and players are obvioulsy running from Fox right now

Posted by: jp | Feb 11, 2009 5:23:22 PM

Clay's comments are right on. The strength of schedule thing went out years ago, now you play one of the AFC divisions and one of the NFC divisions along with the same finishing position team from 2 of the other divisions in your conference. It just so happens this year we get the NFC and AFC east. Hey I would rather them not make the playoffs and get beat by possibly better teams than to play teams that are not that good and get killed in the playoffs. Hey you want to be the best, beat the best. They will have a chance next year to avenge the loss to the Giants, and beat one of the best teams in football for the past 6 years, the Pat's. And like Rob Sharpe says, this is why we play the game, nobody in the world can predict who will get injured from now until game time. I can't believe there are predictions on here based on last years performance, man we just finished the season.

Posted by: Matt | Feb 11, 2009 5:43:53 PM

forget next season lol jk

Posted by: paulmack45@YAHOO.COM | Feb 11, 2009 6:12:15 PM

Geez its hard to try to predict a record of a team before you even know what is going to happen during free agency...6-10, 7-9 who do some of you guys think you are oh let me guess probably the same guys who said we would go 6-10 and 7-9 last year...whats the use of being a fan when you are constantly pessimistic. I am pretty sure the Carolinas hold perhaps some of the WORST Unknowledgable fans in the nation.

Posted by: chefmarv1 | Feb 11, 2009 6:38:01 PM

step it up

Posted by: kravon | Feb 11, 2009 6:41:21 PM

the schedule excites me. We will find out how good we are. we make it to the playoffs with this schedule we know we have a chance to go to the super bowl. plus with all these good teams we are playing we just might get as many nationally televised games as cleveland did last year. being from ohio i would like to see that

Posted by: nieko | Feb 11, 2009 6:44:04 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.