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Game-by-game breakdown of the Panthers 2020 schedule

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The Panthers have known their 2020 opponents for more than four months, but now they know when they'll square off against each team in head coach Matt Rhule's first season.

Carolina will take on the usual suspects in the NFC South twice, while playing all teams in the NFC North and AFC West, as well as the two teams that finished in the same place in the standings from the NFC West and NFC East.

Here's an early game-by-game look at the Panthers' path through the 2020 season.

(2019 record, finish in standings) All times Eastern)

Week 1: vs. Raiders (7-9, 3rd place AFC West) | 1:00 p.m.

All-time record: 3-3 | Last matchup: Raiders won 35-32 in Nov. 2016

The Panthers will begin their season at home for the third straight year, taking on the newly minted Las Vegas Raiders. The opener will feature a pair of marquee running backs in Christian McCaffrey and Josh Jacobs. The 24th overall pick of the 2019 NFL Draft, Jacobs set a franchise rookie rushing record with 1,150 yards in 13 games. The Raiders also signed key free agent linebacker Cory Littleton, who spent the first four years of his career with the Rams, to bolster their defense.

Week 2: at Buccaneers (7-9, 3rd place NFC South) | 1:00 p.m.

All-time record: 24-15 | Last road matchup: Panthers won 37-26 in Oct. 2019 (Game played in London)

Carolina will travel to Tampa Bay to face a Buccaneers team led by quarterback Tom Brady for the first time. The Bucs' offense is expected to be explosive and less turnover-prone with the six-time Super Bowl champion throwing to targets like wide receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin and tight end Rob Gronkowski.

Last year's away contest with Tampa Bay was played in London at Tottenham Stadium, where the Panthers forced seven turnovers — including five picks off former quarterback Jameis Winston.

Week 3: at Chargers (5-11, 4th place AFC West) | 4:05 p.m.

All-time record: 5-1 | Last matchup: Panthers won 28-16 in Dec. 2016

The Panthers will be one of the first opponents to play at the NFL's newest crown jewel, SoFi Stadium. The clubs have not met since the Chargers moved up the 405 Freeway from San Diego to become one of Los Angeles' two teams. The Chargers will also have a new look at quarterback, having let Philip Rivers walk in free agency. Tyrod Taylor is likely to start the season at signal-caller, but this year's No. 6 overall selection Justin Herbert could take over sooner than later.

Week 4: vs. Cardinals (5-10-1, 4th place NFC West) | 1:00 p.m.

All-time record: 10-4 | Last matchup: Panthers won 38-20 in Sept. 2019

Last year, the Panthers visited State Farm Stadium and forced a pair interceptions off then-rookie quarterback Kyler Murray. But the 2019 AP Offensive Rookie of the Year now has another weapon in wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, acquired in a trade with the Texans in March. Carolina has won four straight over Arizona, dating back to 2015.

Week 5: at Falcons (7-9, 2nd place NFC South) | 1:00 p.m.

All-time record: 18-32 | Last road matchup: Falcons won 40-20 in Dec. 2019

The Panthers will begin the second quarter of the season on the road against the Falcons, who have won five straight in the series. Atlanta kept head coach Dan Quinn after a 1-7 start in 2019 and has not made wholesale changes to its personnel, although Raheem Morris was promoted from secondary coach to defensive coordinator. This will be the first opportunity for the Panthers to see running back Todd Gurley in a Falcons uniform, as the former Georgia star signed with Atlanta in early April.

Week 6: vs. Bears (8-8, 3rd place NFC North) | 1:00 p.m.

All-time record: 3-6 | Last matchup: Bears won 17-3 in Oct. 2017

Carolina will return home for its matchup against Chicago in Week 6 — a team with questions at quarterback entering 2020. Mitchell Trubisky, the Bears' first-round pick in 2017, is expected to compete with Super Bowl LII MVP Nick Foles — and many expect Foles to emerge as the starter. The Bears added free agent tight end Jimmy Graham to bolster the offense and defensive end Robert Quinn, who had 11.5 sacks for the Cowboys in 2019.

Week 7: at Saints (13-3, 1st place NFC South) | 1:00 p.m.

All-time record: 25-25 | Last road matchup: Saints won 34-31 in Nov. 2019

The Panthers go back on the road in Week 7, squaring off against the division-rival Saints. In 2019, Carolina played New Orleans tight at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, tying the game at 31 early in the fourth quarter. But a missed field goal late in the fourth quarter led to a Drew Brees game-winning two-minute drill, with kicker Will Lutz hitting a 33-yarder as time expired.

View photos of the Panthers 2020 opponents throughout the years.

Week 8: vs. Falcons (7-9, 2nd place NFC South) | 8:20 p.m. Thursday Night Football

All-time record: 18-32 | Last home matchup: Falcons won 29-3 in Nov. 2019

The Falcons come to Charlotte to face the Panthers for the second time in 18 days, this time for a quick turnaround for the only primetime game currently on Carolina's schedule. The two teams have never met on Thursday Night Football, though they have played two Saturday games — one in 2004 and another in 2016 when Christmas fell on a Sunday. The Panthers' last home win over the Falcons was in 2017.

Week 9: at Chiefs (12-4, 1st place AFC West) | 1:00 p.m.

All-time record: 2-4 | Last matchup: Chiefs won 20-17 in Nov. 2016

Carolina will travel to take on the defending champs in Week 9. This will be the first time the Panthers have ever faced Super Bowl LIV MVP and 2018 league MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Carolina last played in Kansas City on Dec. 2, 2012 — a game the Chiefs won 27-21 behind quarterback Brady Quinn's two touchdown passes and running back Jamaal Charles' 127 yards rushing.

Week 10: vs. Buccaneers (7-9, 3rd place NFC South) | 1:00 p.m.

All-time record: 24-15 | Last home matchup: Buccaneers won 20-14 in Sept. 2019

The penultimate divisional matchup of the 2020 season will come in Week 10, as the Panthers are back Charlotte to play the Buccaneers. Carolina had won five of its last six home games against Tampa Bay until last year's loss on Thursday Night Football when the Panthers' were stopped inches short of the goal line in the final moments.

Week 11: vs. Lions (3-12-1, 4th place NFC North) | 1:00 p.m.

All-time record: 6-3 | Last matchup: Lions won 20-19 in Nov. 2018

Detroit comes to town for the Panthers' only two-game home stretch of the season. The Lions will play at Bank of America Stadium for the sixth time, with the last meeting a 24-7 Panthers' win in 2014. Carolina lost to Detroit in November 2018, when a two-point conversion attempt to take a late lead failed. The Lions looked to improve their defense this offseason by adding linebacker Jamie Collins and cornerback Desmond Trufant in free agency and using their fourth overall pick in the NFL Draft on cornerback Jeff Okudah.

Week 12: at Vikings (10-6, 2nd place NFC North) | 1:00 p.m.

All-time record: 6-8 | Last matchup: Panthers won 31-24 in Dec. 2017

The Panthers will make their first trip to U.S. Bank Stadium, which opened in 2016. Minnesota traded star receiver Stefon Diggs to Buffalo this offseason before selecting LSU wideout Justin Jefferson to pair with Adam Thielen and quarterback Kirk Cousins. The last time these two teams played, the Panthers held off a Vikings' comeback attempt with running back Jonathan Stewart's 1-yard touchdown run with 1:50 left.

Week 13: Bye

Week 14: vs. Broncos (7-9, 2nd place AFC West) | 1:00 p.m.

All-time record: 1-4 | Last matchup: Broncos won 21-20 in Sept. 2016

The Panthers will be back at home after their late bye week to take on the Broncos, who have made significant strides in surrounding young quarterback Drew Lock with offensive talent. Denver signed former Chargers running back Melvin Gordon in free agency, then selected wide receiver Jerry Jeudy out of Alabama and wide receiver K.J. Hamler out of Penn State in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft. Those additions supplement young talents in wide receiver Courtland Sutton and tight end Noah Fant. The Panthers' only win over the Broncos came in 2008 when wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. caught nine passes for 165 yards and a touchdown in a 30-10 victory at Bank of America Stadium.

Week 15: at Packers (13-3, 1st place NFC North) | TBD

All-time record: 6-9 | Last matchup: Packers won 24-16 in Nov. 2019

After a snowy contest that went down to the wire in 2019, the Panthers are likely to see the white stuff again with a mid-December matchup at Lambeau Field. This contest is part of a multi-game Saturday pool, which means the exact date and kickoff time will be announced at a later date. Last year, the NFL held a Saturday triple-header for Week 16, with games starting at 1:00 p.m., 4:30 p.m., and 8:15 p.m. If the Panthers do not play on Saturday, Dec. 19, the game will be on Sunday, Dec. 20.

Week 16: at Washington (3-13, 4th place NFC East) | 1:00 p.m.

All-time record: 6-9 | Last matchup: Washington won 29-21 in Dec. 2019

Carolina will play Washington for the third year in a row, this time with former head coach Ron Rivera now leading the NFC East opponent. Last year, the Panthers fell 29-21 in Rivera's final game after eight-plus seasons with the franchise. While Carolina has lost the last two head-to-head matchups, the Panthers won five straight from 2009-2016.

Week 17: vs. Saints (13-3, 1st place NFC South) | 1:00 p.m.

All-time record: 25-25 | Last home matchup: Saints won 42-10 in Dec. 2019

The Panthers will finish the regular season against the Saints at Bank of America Stadium for the second straight year. It's also the 11th season-ender all-time with New Orleans, the most against any opponent. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater played 11 snaps in last season's finale for New Orleans, completing one pass for 14 yards. The Panthers last beat the Saints at home in 2016, when Carolina held off a fourth-quarter comeback on Thursday Night Football to come away with a 23-20 win.

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