5 games that will define the Carolina Panthers 2021 season

(Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports) Christian McCaffrey
(Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports) Christian McCaffrey /
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Carolina Panthers
(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports) Sam Darnold and Matt Rhule /

Which games could ultimately define how the Carolina Panthers will get on during an immensely important 2021 season?

After a roller-coaster 5-11 season in 2020, Matt Rhule and the Carolina Panthers will be looking to take another step forward in the team’s rebuilding efforts in 2021, beginning with a Week 1 date with the New York Jets in Charlotte.

The opener will mark Sam Darnold’s first regular-season contest in a Panthers uniform, and also his first time facing his former team.

Following the game against New York, the Panthers will play at home against the New Orleans Saints in an early-season divisional matchup before hitting the road for two games in the Lone Star State against the Houston Texans and Dallas Cowboys.

Carolina also has matchups with the Philadelphia Eagles, Minnesota Vikings, New York Giants, and Atlanta Falcons in the first half of the season.

Two other notable games on the 2021 schedule include dates with the New England Patriots and Washington Football Team – both at home and which will mark the returns of two Panthers legends in Cam Newton and Ron Rivera.

New England will travel to Carolina on Nov. 7, while Washington visits two weeks later on Nov. 21.

Carolina Panthers have the right man to lead them in Matt Rhule.

Certainly, the Panthers have what should be an entertaining slate ahead of them, but it is important to remember Rhule’s talk of “The Process”.

In his two stops at the collegiate level, he went a combined 3-21 in his first seasons, 13-12 in his second, and by the time the third seasons rolled around he had his teams well above .500 and in the conference championships.

With that being said, Rhule is a proven team-builder and is a coach intent on constructing a winning environment.

Carolina has had a solid offseason in terms of building towards that winning culture, adding some huge pieces to a young defense, while also trading for what they hope will be the team’s quarterback of the future in Darnold.

The 2021 schedule has several measuring-stick games to track their progress, but also has a good balance of winnable contests and ones against teams who are at the contending level that the Panthers hope to soon be.

So, without further ado, here are the five games that will most define the Panthers’ 2021 campaign.