Great news Panther fans. Carolina has the good fortune of having the toughest schedule in the 2013 season according to NFL.com. One would wonder why or how it is remotely possible the Panthers, coming off a 7-9 season, could have the misfortune of being given the toughest schedule in the entire NFL. The answer to that question is quite easily explained. Just take a look at the win-loss record within the Panthers own division.
The Panthers are coming out of the NFC South. The division records for teams in the NFC South are as follows:
New Orleans 7-9
Tampa Bay 7-9
When you add up wins and losses just in division opponents, it is easy to see where the total combined wins of 2013 opponents in the 2012 season could add up quickly in the win column. Then you add the Seahawks, Patriots, Niners and Vikings, all of which had 10 wins or more and before you know it you are now the proud owner of the toughest NFL schedule in 2013. Additionally, the Panthers will host the New York Giants, a 9 win team in 2012, so you can see why Carolina will be hard pressed to make a run to the playoffs.
The overall 2012 win percentage of the 2013 Carolina Panthers opponents is an impressive .543! This really does not have any real bearing on the upcoming season because as we know the NFL is in a constant state of flux from one season to the next when it comes to teams making runs to the playoffs. Each year there is a surprise team or 2 that makes an impact on the landscape of the NFL. So as unfair as this may seem, don’t give up hope yet.
My immediate concern is for head coach Ron Rivera. This is going to be a make or break season for him. The strength of schedule does make his future in Carolina look a bit more precarious than before the schedule came out. But I suppose if you want to look for a silver lining in this bit of news, should Carolina make it to the playoffs they will certainly be battle tested. The schedule will have prepared them for a deep playoff run. The difficult part will be getting to the playoffs.
The combine and draft are quickly approaching. This will keep Panther fans satiated during the offseason, but the 800 lb gorilla in the room will be looming large come the start of the regular season. If the Panthers want any chance of making the playoffs they will need to come out to a much faster start than last season. If not, it will be a long season for Panther fans and a very short one for head coach Ron Rivera.
Follow me on Twitter @JoeRiollano