Who Panthers should pick in this year’s draft according to Panthers beat reporter, Jourdan Rodrigue
The Carolina Panthers’ road back to the playoffs will take them to London, Phoenix and San Francisco in 2019.
One year after a relatively mild road schedule (about 4,066 miles in total), the Panthers will travel roughly 12,322 miles in 2019, not including return trips. Their first five road trips of the season will take them farther from Charlotte than any of their road games did last season.
They’ll play six playoff teams from 2018, as well as the teams with the top two picks in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Carolina‘s toughest stretch of the season may be its final nine games, during which the Panthers play five games against teams that finished with at least nine wins in 2018, three games against teams that finished 7-9 and one game at Green Bay’s historic Lambeau Field.
The Panthers also visit a couple former players when they travel to Houston to face Matt Kalil and the Texans, and Indianapolis to play Devin Funchess and the Colts.
Now that the NFL released its full 2019 regular-season schedule, here’s a breakdown of each opponent:
Week 1 (Sept. 8) — Los Angeles Rams (13-3)
Carolina gets back-to-back season openers at home as the defending NFC champions travel to Bank of America Stadium, bringing with them the NFL’s No. 2 offense from 2018. Todd Gurley and Aaron Donald are game-changing talents on offense and defense, respectively, and this game should be a measuring stick if the Panthers consider themselves contenders in the conference.
Week 2 (Thurs., Sept. 12) — Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-11)
It’s a new era in Tampa Bay as former NFL Coach of the Year Bruce Arians takes over for Dirk Koetter. He’s brought his former defensive coordinator and New York Jets head coach, Todd Bowles, on board to revamp a cellar-dwelling defense, and the Bucs front office hopes Arians has the same effect on quarterback Jameis Winston that he had on Andrew Luck, Ben Roethlisberger and Carson Palmer.
Week 3 (Sept. 22) — at Arizona Cardinals (3-13)
Will Carolina get one of the NFL’s first looks at quarterback Kyler Murray? Or perhaps Nick Bosa or Quinnen Williams? Whoever the Cardinals select with the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft, he will almost assuredly be an impact rookie, which makes this an interesting game against an Arizona team that needs playmakers on either side of the ball.
Week 4 (Sept. 29) — at Houston Texans (11-5)
If Carolina fixed its pass rush over the offseason, this would be the game to prove it. Houston is led by the electric Deshaun Watson, who has posted the third-best QB rating and thrown for the 12th-most touchdowns of any quarterback in their first two seasons in NFL history — but he’s also taken the fifth-most sacks.
Week 5 (Oct. 6) — Jacksonville Jaguars (5-11)
From AFC runners-up to AFC South bottom-dweller in one season, the Jaguars were one of the more surprisingly disappointing teams in 2018. Now with Nick Foles at quarterback, Jacksonville seems poised to bounce back in 2019. Cornerback Jalen Ramsey will provide a challenge for Panthers receiver D.J. Moore as the second-year pro establishes himself as Carolina’s top receiving threat not named Christian McCaffrey.
Week 6 (Oct. 13) — at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-11) (London)
Ah, yes, jolly ole’ chap, the Panthers journey across the pond to foggy London for their first game overseas in franchise history. The game will be held at the new, $1.3 billion Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Carolina’s longest road trip of the season will be followed by a bye week in Week 7 — which should help more than last season’s Week 4 bye.
Week 7 — Bye
Week 8 (Oct. 27) —at San Francisco 49ers (4-12)
Don’t let the 49ers’ 2018 record fool you: Their offense is potent with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who missed 13 games last season with a torn ACL. George Kittle might be the best pass-catching tight end in the NFL after a breakout 1,377-yard season, and will be a litmus test for whether the Panthers solved their issue covering opposing tight ends.
Week 9 (Nov. 3) — Tennessee Titans (9-7)
Carolina’s other home game against an AFC South opponent comes against one of the NFL’s sixth-best pass defense in terms of yards per game from 2018. Offensively, the Titans’ big three of quarterback Marcus Mariota, running back Derrick Henry and wide receiver Corey Davis are the players to watch while cornerback Adoree Jackson and safety Kevin Byard anchor their defensive secondary.
Week 10 (Nov. 10) — at Green Pay Packers (6-9-1)
One of two bucket-list games on the Panthers’ schedule, it’s never easy to leave Lambeau Field with a victory — especially while Aaron Rodgers is running the Packers’ offense. A new coaching staff under former Rams offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur and perhaps a rare consistent running game in Green Bay could make this game tricky for Ron Rivera and defensive coordinator Eric Washington to plan for.
Week 11 (Nov. 17) — Atlanta Falcons (7-9)
Panthers fans know what they’re getting here, an offense-led Falcons team led by the connection between Matt Ryan and Julio Jones. Atlanta swept the season series in 2018 and should feature more of the same formula in 2019.
Week 12 (Nov. 24) — at New Orleans Saints (13-3)
Is Mark Ingram’s departure from New Orleans a good thing if that means Alvin Kamara (883 rushing yards, 709 receiving yards, 18 total TD in 2018) will be on the field more often? Carolina will see for itself in 2019, along with new addition Jared Cook, who may be Drew Brees’ best option at tight end since Jimmy Graham.
Week 13 (Dec. 1) — Washington (7-9)
Another “run it back” opponent from 2018, Washington comes to Carolina after winning the teams’ matchup last season. Alex Smith won’t be playing quarterback after suffering a gruesome leg injury late last season, so it’s difficult to peg what this Washington offense will look like by the time this game comes around, but expect it to be rebuilding.
Week 14 (Dec. 8) — at Atlanta Falcons (7-9)
Carolina‘s annual trip to Atlanta is sandwiched between two conference home games, and comes 10 days after the Falcons face the Saints on Thanksgiving Day.
Week 15 (Dec. 15) — Seattle Seahawks (10-6)
The Panthers host the Seahawks for the second straight season. Last year’s matchup was one of the backbreaking, one-score losses the Panthers suffered during their 1-7 slide to end the year, and this installment should be a challenge once again with the newly-extended Russell Wilson under center and 2018’s No. 1 rushing offense.
Week 16 (Dec. 22)— at Indianapolis Colts (10-6)
Carolina visits the new home of former wide receiver Devin Funchess as he integrates into the NFL’s sixth-best passing offense from a season ago. The Colts finished 11th in the league in yards allowed per game and excelled against the run thanks to linebacker Darius Leonard, who made first-team All-Pro as a rookie in 2018.
Week 17 (Dec. 29) — New Orleans Saints (13-3)
The Panthers will open and close the regular season at home for the first time since 2009, and will face the Saints in their season-finale for the second-straight season in a matchup that could have NFC South championship implications.
2019 Carolina Panthers Regular Season Schedule
Week 1, Sept. 8: LA Rams, 1 p.m. (Fox)
Week 2, Thursday, Sept. 12: vs. Buccaneers, 8:20 p.m. (NFLN)
Week 3, Sept. 22: at Cardinals, 4:05 p.m. (Fox)
Week 4, Sept. 29: at Texans, 1 p.m. (Fox)
Week 5, Oct. 6: Jaguars, 1 p.m. (CBS)
Week 6, Oct. 13: at Buccaneers (in London), 9:30 a.m. (Fox)
Week 7: Bye week
Week 8, Oct. 27: at 49ers, 4:05 p.m. (Fox)
Week 9, Nov. 3: Titans, 1 p.m. (CBS)
Week 10, Nov. 10: at Packers, 1 p.m. (Fox)
Week 11, Nov. 17: Falcons, 1 p.m. (Fox)
Week 12, Nov. 24: at Saints, 1 p.m. (Fox)
Week 13, Dec. 1: Washington, 1 p.m. (CBS)
Week 14, Dec. 8: at Falcons, 1 p.m. (Fox)
Week 15, Dec. 15: vs. Seahawks, 1 p.m. (Fox)
Week 16, Dec. 22: at Colts, 1 p.m. (Fox)
Week 17, Dec. 29: Saints, 1 p.m. (Fox)