Carolina Panthers schedule takeaways:
- The Panthers face the New York Jets in Week 1 of the NFL season.
- Their Week 13 bye is set between a road game against the Miami Dolphins and a home matchup versus the Atlanta Falcons (Nov. 28 and Dec. 12).
- Sportsnaut predicts the Panthers will end the season with a 7-10 record.
The Carolina Panthers’ 2021 schedule is out, and in a crowded, competitive NFC, they’ll have their work cut out to contend for the playoffs.
New starting quarterback Sam Darnold is a huge wild card. If Darnold is a big hit in Charlotte and the Panthers have found their QB of the future, there’s no telling how high this team will ascend. However, that’s a big leap to make for Darnold after several underwhelming years on the New York Jets.
Let’s break down the Panthers’ 17-game 2021 schedule and project what their final record will be.
Carolina Panthers schedule predictions, roster outlook
Let’s take a look at the team’s complete 2021 schedule and make predictions for each game.
Panthers roster outlook
All our predictions are based on the Panthers keeping and starting these key players:
- QB – Sam Darnold
- RB – Christian McCaffrey, Chuba Hubbard (rookie)
- WR – DJ Moore, Robby Anderson, Terrace Marshall Jr. (rookie)
- TE – Tommy Tremble (rookie), Ian Thomas
- Defense – Panthers not ranked in top 20 this week
Carolina is believed to have one of the best young schematic geniuses in football in offensive coordinator Joe Brady. While McCaffrey is absolutely elite and Moore and Anderson form an excellent receiver duo, much of the Panthers’ success will hinge on Darnold having a career year and key rookies stepping up to contribute right away.
Carolina Panthers 2021 preseason schedule
|Sunday, Aug. 15||@ Indianapolis Colts||1:00 PM||Panthers TV Network|
|Saturday, Aug. 21||vs. Baltimore Ravens||7:00 PM||Panthers TV Network|
|Friday, Aug. 28||vs. Pittsburgh Steelers||7:30 PM||Panthers TV Network|
This season the NFL is lowering the amount of preseason games to three per team, and instead expanding the regular season to 17 games, rather than the traditional 16 games.
Week 1 – vs. New York Jets
|Sunday, Sept. 12||1:00 PM||CBS|
- Spread: Panthers -4.5 (via DraftKings)
- Moneyline: Jets +160; Panthers -200
- Over/Under: 43
This has all kinds of trouble written all over it for Carolina. Darnold will be pressing as much as ever trying to beat his former team, and that’ll likely lead to multiple critical errors. Meanwhile, his Jets successor, Zach Wilson, has the chance to light up a suspect Panthers secondary with his deep receiving corps.
- Week 1 prediction: Jets 30, Panthers 20
Week 2 – vs. New Orleans Saints
|Sunday, Sept. 19||1:00 PM||FOX|
Because Drew Brees is no longer walking out from that visiting Saints locker room, Carolina has to feel so much more at ease. Whether it’s the historically mistake-prone Jameis Winston or the perpetually raw thrower of the football that is Taysom Hill, the Panthers will have home field and the edge at the most important position on the field with Darnold.
- Week 2 prediction: Panthers 31, Saints 27
Week 3 – @ Houston Texans (TNF)
|Thursday, Sept. 23||8:20 PM||NFLN|
Yours truly projected the Texans to go 0-17 in 2021, and for good reason. This may be one of their more winnable games, but Carolina isn’t going to lose in Houston. There’s too much skill position talent on the Panthers’ side for this one to result in a shocking loss.
- Week 3 prediction: Panthers 35, Texans 24
Week 4 – @ Dallas Cowboys
|Sunday, Oct. 3||1:00 PM||FOX|
We’ll see how much the Cowboys’ defensive improvements matter, because most of their reinforcements came through the draft. Regardless, with Dak Prescott back under center, Dallas should be able to win its fair share of shootouts, which this matchup with the Panthers figures to be.
- Week 4 prediction: Cowboys 34, Panthers 30
Week 5 – vs. Philadelphia Eagles
|Sunday, Oct. 10||1:00 PM||FOX|
Unless Jalen Hurts really shows something as an NFL sophomore, he faces an uphill battle to be a franchise quarterback. The Eagles don’t have enough depth in their defensive backfield to hang with Carolina’s receiver trio of DJ Moore, Robby Anderson and Terrace Marshall Jr.
- Week 5 prediction: Panthers 27, Eagles 16
Week 6 – vs. Minnesota Vikings
|Sunday, Oct. 17||1:00 PM||FOX|
These are two of the most evenly matched teams on the entire NFL schedule. Both are built similarly, with elite running backs, excellent receiving duos, and talented-but-flawed defenses and quarterbacks. The tie goes to the home team here.
- Week 6 prediction: Panthers 31, Vikings 27
Week 7 – @ New York Giants
|Sunday, Oct. 24||1:00 PM||FOX|
This is going to be fun, because once upon a time, Giants general manager Dave Gettleman essentially tanked Carolina’s roster into oblivion with a series of horrible draft classes. This new Carolina regime will have a little something extra in terms of bragging rights if the Panthers pull this one out, and they actually match up well with New York personnel-wise.
- Week 7 prediction: Panthers 27, Giants 21
Week 8 – @ Atlanta Falcons
|Sunday, Oct. 31||1:00 PM||FOX|
The Falcons’ defensive front has done a bad job pressuring opposing quarterbacks in recent years. They also don’t have the means to stop Carolina’s excellent rushing attack led by Christian McCaffrey. That’s more the recipe for Darnold’s success.
- Week 8 prediction: Panthers 38, Falcons 28
Week 9 – vs. New England Patriots
|Sunday, Nov. 7||1:00 PM||CBS|
When Darnold infamously was “seeing ghosts” on live national TV, he was facing New England. The young QB hasn’t displayed the football wherewithal since then to show he can outfox the legendary Bill Belichick. Even with a much better supporting cast in Charlotte, don’t expect Darnold to take down the mighty Patriots.
- Week 9 prediction: Patriots 17, Panthers 13
Week 10 – @ Arizona Cardinals
|Sunday, Nov. 14||1:00 PM||FOX|
Because of Kyler Murray‘s dual-threat ability and presumed progression entering his third season, the Cardinals are a trendy pick to make the playoffs. They’ll be hard-pressed to do that in the NFC West, though, so they must beat inferior opponents at home when the opportunities arises. This is one such occasion.
- Week 10 prediction: Cardinals 31, Panthers 20
Week 11 – vs. Washington Football Team
|Sunday, Nov. 21||1:00 PM||FOX|
Washington QB Ryan Fitzpatrick has Curtis Samuel, Terry McLaurin and Dyami Brown who can all beat the Panthers deep. That’s what this matchup boils down to. Plus, the Football Team has an elite front that can stymie McCaffrey and pressure Darnold by only rushing four. Not the best of news for the Carolina faithful hoping an upset is in the offing.
- Week 11 prediction: Washington 27, Panthers 10
Week 12 – @ Miami Dolphins
|Sunday, Nov. 28||1:00 PM||FOX|
If McCaffrey can’t get going on the ground, Darnold is going to have a hard time completing anything on the Dolphins’ stout secondary. It’s not like Tua Tagovailoa is a phenomenal quarterback either, though, so expect the hosts to pull this one out in a low-scoring grind of a game.
- Week 12 prediction: Dolphins 20, Panthers 13
Week 13 BYE
Week 14 – vs. Atlanta Falcons
|Sunday, Dec. 12||1:00 PM||FOX|
Shootouts are probably going to be commonplace for these two teams in 2021. Because Atlanta has fewer promising young players on defense, though, the Panthers should find a way to win this one in front of the home crowd.
- Week 14 prediction: Panthers 42, Falcons 35
Week 15 – @ Buffalo Bills
|Sunday, Dec. 19||TBD||TBD|
The road schedule for Carolina presents a lot of pitfalls, not least of which is a trip to Buffalo. Josh Allen is Darnold’s draft classmate, but made an extraordinary leap in Year 3 to run laps around him as a quarterback. That’s bad news for the Panthers in this one.
- Week 15 prediction: Bills 45, Panthers 21
Week 16 – vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
|Sunday, Dec. 26||1:00 PM||FOX|
Any time. Any venue. Doesn’t matter. Home cooking won’t save the Panthers from getting blown out by the Buccaneers. The only area Carolina has a talent edge is in the backfield with Christian McCaffrey. Otherwise, this is a complete mismatch.
- Week 16 prediction: Buccaneers 42, Panthers 24
Week 17 – @ New Orleans Saints
|Sunday, Jan. 2||1:00 PM||FOX|
Playing at the Superdome is never easy, and there’s a familiarity factor here, as Panthers offensive coordinator Joe Brady spent time on the Saints staff under Sean Payton. That’s probably going to tilt this outcome in the home team’s favor due to Payton’s superior experience and New Orleans’ better all-around defensive talent.
- Week 17 prediction: Saints 35, Panthers 27
Week 18 – @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
|Sunday, Jan. 9||1:00 PM||FOX|
Asking Darnold to square off with the Super Bowl champion Buccaneers, who are returning all their starters on offense and defense, and even manage a split as he adjusts to his new surroundings in Carolina is a big ask. Tom Brady and the Bucs have too many weapons for the Panthers to ultimately keep up with.
- Week 18 prediction: Buccaneers 38, Panthers 17