CHARLOTTE -- Three prime-time games, two late-season trips to Giants Stadium and 15 contests against teams that finished .500 or better loom on the Panthers' 2009 schedule, which was released by the league on Tuesday night.
The Panthers are guaranteed to make appearances on ESPN's Monday Night Football (at Dallas in Week 3) and the NFL Network's Thursday night series of games (at home against Miami in Week 11). The Panthers are also penciled in for a Week 15 Sunday Night Football duel with the Minnesota Vikings at Bank of America Stadium, but that contest could be moved to the afternoon per the NFL's flexible-scheduling policy.
By last year's records, the Panthers have the second-toughest schedule in the league, trailing only Miami. That's what happens when your division's fourth-place team finished 8-8 and when you're paired up against two divisions (the AFC East and NFC East) in which no one was worse than 7-9 last year.
"It is a challenging schedule, but we knew that from the end of season when we saw who were playing," said head coach John Fox. "The NFC South is a very good division, so you know you are going to have a strong schedule before adding any other teams. Things can change a great deal during the course of a season, and our challenge is to put the best team we can on the field."
Carolina's slate kicks off and concludes with home games -- against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sept. 13 and the New Orleans Saints on Jan. 3, respectively. In between the Panthers play their eight road games, including a pair of consecutive trips in Weeks 2-3 and 8-9.
|Sat.||Aug. 8||FAN FEST**||11 a.m.|
|Mon.||Aug. 17||at N.Y. Giants||8 p.m.||ESPN|
|Sat.||Aug. 22||at Miami||7:30 p.m.||PTV|
|Sat.||Aug. 29||BALTIMORE||8 p.m.||PTV|
|Thu.||Sept. 3||PITTSBURGH||8 p.m.||PTV|
|Sun.||Sept. 13||PHILADELPHIA||1 p.m.||FOX|
|Sun.||Sept. 20||at Atlanta||1 p.m.||FOX|
|Mon.||Sept. 28||at Dallas||8:30 p.m.||ESPN|
|Sun.||Oct. 11||WASHINGTON||1 p.m.||FOX|
|Sun.||Oct. 18||at Tampa Bay||1 p.m.||FOX|
|Sun.||Oct. 25||BUFFALO||4:05 p.m.||CBS|
|Sun.||Nov. 1||at Arizona||4:15 p.m.||FOX|
|Sun.||Nov. 8||at New Orleans||4:05 p.m.||FOX|
|Sun.||Nov. 15||ATLANTA||1 p.m.||FOX|
|Thu.||Nov. 19||MIAMI||8:20 p.m.||NFLN|
|Sun.||Nov. 29||at N.Y. Jets||1 p.m. *||FOX|
|Sun.||Dec. 6||TAMPA BAY||1 p.m.*||FOX|
|Sun.||Dec. 13||at New England||1 p.m.*||FOX|
|Sun.||Dec. 20||MINNESOTA||8:20 p.m.*||NBC|
|Sun.||Dec. 27||at N.Y. Giants||1 p.m.*||FOX|
|Sun.||Jan. 3||NEW ORLEANS||1 p.m.*||FOX|
WHEN: Sunday, Sept. 13; 1 p.m. EDT.
SERIES RECORD: Eagles lead, 4-1 (Panthers lead 1-0 in playoffs).
LAST TIME: Eagles 27, Panthers 24; Dec. 4, 2006. The Panthers came into Philadelphia with wins in six of their previous nine games, holding a 6-5 mark that had them in solid shape for a playoff run. They left with the first of three consecutive losses, falling after a first-and-goal pass for Keyshawn Johnson in the end zone was intercepted by Lito Sheppard with 24 seconds remaining. The Panthers lost their next two games.
LAST TIME IN CHARLOTTE: Eagles 25, Panthers 16; Nov. 30, 2003. After whittling a fourth-quarter deficit to six points via a 23-yard touchdown pass from Jake Delhomme to Muhsin Muhammad, the Panthers could not complete the comeback and dropped a second consecutive game. A 29-yard pass from Donovan McNabb to Chad Lewis helped clinch the game; the completion pulled the Eagles out of a third-and-9 just past midfield and set up a game-clinching David Akers field goal four plays later.
BITS: Carolina opens at home for the eighth time in franchise history and first time since 2006 ... The Panthers have won two consecutive season openers after dropping three in succession from 2004-06 ... John Fox is 4-3 in Week 1 games ... This is Carolina's first season opener against an NFC East opponent since 2000 (at Washington).
WHEN: Sunday, Sept; 20; 1 p.m. EDT.
SERIES RECORD: Falcons lead, 17-11.
LAST TIME IN ATLANTA: Falcons 45, Panthers 28; Nov. 23, 2008. After falling behind 17-0 in the second quarter, Carolina outscored the Falcons 21-7 to whittle the deficit down to three points before Atlanta pulled away with three touchdowns in the final eight minutes. Michael Turner scored four of the Falcons' six touchdowns, including a 1-yard, fourth-and-goal run with 7:16 remaining. That score was set up by a 69-yard pass from Matt Ryan to Harry Douglas on third-and-11; that completion halted the momentum Carolina had built in scoring on each of its previous three possessions. The Panthers had slight advantages in first downs (22-21) and total yardage (408-392), but neither could help the Panthers overturn the early deficit.
BITS: Teams have split the last three season series ... Panthers have a 6-6 record against Atlanta since 2003 after losing the six successive and nine of the previous 10 games in the series ... Both teams head into 2009 looking for their first consecutive winning seasons ... Carolina has played three overtime games against Atlanta, more than it has had against the Saints and Buccaneers combined ... After playing three consecutive games decided by exactly seven points apiece, last year's games were won by an average margin of 16.0 points ... The Falcons' win at the Georgia Dome last Nov. 23 was their first at home against Carolina since Dec. 18, 2004, snapping a three-game Panthers winning streak in Atlanta ... The Panthers have averaged 28.0 points per game in their last five trips to Atlanta.
WHEN: Monday, Sept. 28; 8:30 p.m. EDT.
SERIES RECORD: Cowboys lead, 7-1 (Panthers lead 2-0 in playoffs).
LAST TIME: Cowboys 20, Panthers 13; Dec. 22, 2007. The persistent Panthers hung around against a Cowboys team headed for a 13-3 finish and the top seed in the NFC playoffs, but couldn't complete the upset in a nationally televised Saturday evening contest. Matt Moore started against the team with which he spent the preseason, completing 15 of 28 passes for 182 yards and a second-quarter touchdown to Steve Smith. Dallas led 14-0 in the second quarter; the Panthers narrowed the deficit to seven points three times, but could come no closer in a loss that dashed Carolina's postseason hopes.
LAST TIME IN TEXAS: Cowboys 24, Panthers 20; Nov. 23, 2003. In what turned out to be a preview of a wild-card playoff between the teams, Dallas turned back the Panthers in a game that was close throughout, but never saw the Panthers lead. Carolina fought back to forge ties at 3-, 10- and 17-apiece before Aveion Cason's 16-yard run with 4:15 left in the third quarter put Dallas up to stay. Running back Stephen Davis scored once, but was limited to just 2.3 yards per carry. The Panthers' fate was sealed on third downs, where they went 1-for-11.
BITS: The game will mark the Panthers' first trip to the Cowboys' new stadium in Arlington, Texas. The Panthers won in their first trip to the Cowboys' old home, defeating them 23-13 in a Monday Night Football game at Texas Stadium on Dec. 8, 1997 ... This is the third consecutive Panthers-Cowboys game to take place in prime time; the teams tangled on Sunday Night Football in 2006 and on a Saturday night NFL Network game a year later ... Neither team has failed to score double digits in any of the 10 games between the clubs ... This will be the Panthers' ninth Monday Night Football appearance, but just its third away from home.
WHEN: Sunday, Oct. 11; 1 p.m. EDT.
SERIES RECORD: Redskins lead, 7-1.
LAST TIME: Redskins 17, Panthers 13; Nov. 26, 2006. A 66-yard touchdown pass from Jason Campbell to Chris Cooley with 4:37 remaining provided the game-winning points for the Redskins, who dropped the Panthers to 6-5. Carolina had claimed the lead earlier in the final quarter on an eight-yard Jake Delhomme-to-Steve Smith touchdown connection, but could not retake it as a pair of late-game drives petered out in Redskins territory.
LAST TIME IN CHARLOTTE: Panthers 20, Redskins 17; Nov. 16, 2003. Stephen Davis' three-yard touchdown run with 1:14 remaining capped a second fourth-quarter comeback in as many weeks. Two Patrick Ramsey touchdown passes had brought the Redskins back from a 10-3 third-quarter deficit, putting them in front 17-13 with 4:19 left to play. From there, The Panthers began their march downfield, powered by fourth-and-1, 25-yard pass from Jake Delhomme to Davis, moving the Panthers to the Washington 37-yard-line. One snap later, Delhomme found Steve Smith for 30 yards, setting up Davis' game-winning run.
BITS: Four of the last five games in the series were played at FedExField ... Close games have been the norm; the last five contests between the teams have been decided by a combined 15 points (3.0 per game), with none decided by more than four points ... The teams grappled in five consecutive seasons (1997-2001) but only met twice in the following eight years.
WHEN: Sunday, Oct. 18; 1 p.m. EDT.
SERIES RECORD: Panthers lead, 10-7.
LAST TIME IN TAMPA: Buccaneers 27, Panthers 3; Oct. 12, 2008. Carolina came into Raymond James Stadium with a 4-1 record, but left with its worst loss of the season. The game started badly for the Panthers, as Geno Hayes scored on a blocked punt after the game's first series, putting the Panthers behind to stay. Two opportunities to whittle the Bucs' lead down to one score in the second quarter evaporated, and the Panthers couldn't recover. It was Carolina's first loss in Tampa after five consecutive wins there.
BITS: Carolina is 5-3 at Raymond James Stadium, including a 5-1 mark under John Fox, and has won nine of its last 12 games against the Buccaneers ... Only one of the teams' last 10 games has been decided by less than eight points ... The Panthers averaged 32.0 points per game in Tampa from 2004-07 ... Carolina is 9-0 when scoring at least 20 points against the Bucs.
WHEN: Sunday, Oct. 25; 4:05 p.m. EDT.
SERIES RECORD: Bills lead, 3-1.
LAST TIME: Panthers 13, Bills 9; Nov. 27, 2005. Jake Delhomme's three-yard scoring pass to Michael Gaines on third-and-goal with 2:16 left in regulation was the only touchdown of the game, but it was enough to give the Panthers the lead for good in a hard-fought win at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Buffalo attempted a last-gasp drive, but was stopped at the Carolina 34-yard-line, where cornerback Chris Gamble intercepted a J.P. Losman pass to Roscoe Parrish, ending the Bills' comeback attempt. The Cornerback Chris Gamble intercepted a J.P. Losman pass to Roscoe Parrish with
LAST TIME IN CHARLOTTE: Bills 30, Panthers 14; Oct. 25, 1998. Two Doug Flutie touchdown passes to Eric Moulds – covering 20 and 82 yards – pushed Buffalo to a 17-7 halftime lead en route to the final result. The Bills eventually pushed the lead to 30-7 before Steve Beuerlein hit Mark Carrier for an eight-yard touchdown, creating the final margin. Beuerlein completed 22-of-39 passes for 286 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions, while Carrier had five receptions for 100 yards, notching the final 100-yard game of his 12-year career. The loss dropped the Panthers to 0-7 and was their ninth consecutive defeat dating back to the previous season; Carolina won the next week (31-17 over New Orleans) and went 4-5 for the balance of the year.
BITS: The Panthers have averaged 12.0 points per game against the Bills ... Two of the four times the teams played came in the Panthers' two worst seasons: the 4-12 campaign of 1998 and the 1-15 finish of 2001 ... John Fox is 1-0 against the Bills; previous head coaches Dom Capers and George Seifert were a combined 0-3 ... The last two games between the teams – both played in Orchard Park, N.Y. – were decided by a combined five points.
WHEN: Sunday, Nov. 1; 4:15 p.m. EST.
SERIES RECORD: Panthers lead, 6-2. (Cardinals lead 1-0 in playoffs).
LAST TIME: Cardinals 33, Panthers 13; Jan. 10, 2009. In the first playoff game at Bank of America Stadium in five years, the Panthers drove to a touchdown on their opening and closing drives, but surrendered 33 consecutive points in between to fall in the divisional round. Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald racked up 166 yards and a touchdown on eight receptions, while Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme struggled, throwing five interceptions and fumbling once. The six turnovers led to 23 Arizona points, spelling doom for the Panthers.
LAST TIME IN GLENDALE: Panthers 25, Cardinals 10; Oct. 14, 2007. Forced into the starting lineup just five days after signing with the Panthers, quarterback Vinny Testaverde fired a 65-yard touchdown strike to Steve Smith 5:40 before the final gun, putting the Panthers in front to stay. Two possessions later – and with the Panthers holding an 18-10 lead – DeAngelo Williams broke loose for a 75-yard gain off left tackle; he scored from 13 yards out two plays later to seal the win. The late runs allowed Williams to finish with a then-career-high 121 yards, good for the second triple-digit game of his career.
BITS: The teams have been regular opponents in recent years, dueling in all but one season since 2001 ... Carolina is undefeated in Arizona, winning twice at Sun Devil Stadium (in 2003 and 2005) and once at University of Phoenix Stadium ... Last January's playoff game was the first time in six meetings that the Panthers failed to score at least 20 points against the Cardinals; for the series' previous five games dating back to 2003, the Panthers averaged 26.2 points per game while surrendering 16.0 points a game ... In Smith's last four regular-season games against Arizona, he's averaged 8.0 receptions, 117.8 yards and 1.25 touchdowns. In that span he's notched three 100-yard games – including a 117-yard, two touchdown-effort last Oct. 26 – and has averaged 14.7 yards per reception.
WHEN: Sunday, Nov. 8; 4:05 p.m. EST.
SERIES RECORD: Tied, 14-14.
LAST TIME IN NEW ORLEANS: Panthers 33, Saints 31; Dec. 28, 2008. Steve Smith's acrobatic catch set up a game-winning, 42-yard John Kasay field goal that clinched the NFC South crown for the Panthers in the regular-season finale at the Louisiana Superdome. Carolina sprinted to a 30-10 lead early in the fourth quarter, then watched it dissolve as Drew Brees threw touchdown passes on three consecutive series. But the Panthers had the last gasp, and clinched their best regular-season record in a dozen years.
BITS: This is the Panthers' third division road game of the season; they play their entire complement of NFC South away games before the season's halfway point ... Carolina has won seven consecutive games against the Saints in Louisiana -- six at the Superdome and one at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge ... Overall, the Panthers have won six of their last seven over the Saints. Three of the wins were decided by three points or less, including their last two triumphs in New Orleans.
WHEN: Sunday, Nov. 15; 1 p.m. EST.
LAST TIME IN CHARLOTTE: Panthers 24, Falcons 9; Sept. 28, 2008. Jonathan Stewart's eight-yard touchdown run 7:13 into the contest put the Panthers in front to stay as they gradually pulled away for the win. Muhsin Muhammad and Steve Smith each caught touchdown passes; Muhammad's 36-yard reception in the final quarter accounted for the final margin. The Panthers had to overcome the loss of left tackle Jordan Gross, who sustained a concussion on the game's first series. Gross' streak of 91 consecutive starts (including postseason) would end as a result of the injury; he missed the following week's game against Kansas City.
BITS: Carolina's win at Bank of America Stadium last Sept. 28 was its first over Atlanta at home since Dec. 4, 2005 ... Just one of the last seven games against the Falcons in Charlotte has been decided by one score (2007, a 20-13 Atlanta win) ... The Panthers are 2-0 in Charlotte when Steve Smith, Muhsin Muhammad and Jake Delhomme all suit up for them against the Falcons.
WHEN: Thursday, Nov. 19; 8:20 p.m. EST.
SERIES RECORD: Dolphins lead, 3-0.
LAST TIME: Dolphins 27, Panthers 24; Sept. 25, 2005. Carolina scrambled back from deficits of 14-3 and 21-10 to force a 24-all deadlock, but a Lance Schulters interception with 1:51 remaining set up a game-winning, 32-yard Olindo Mare field goal four seconds from the final gun. Jake Delhomme had brought the Panthers back with three touchdown passes to Steve Smith, but the interception doomed the Panthers to defeat.
LAST TIME IN CHARLOTTE: Dolphins 13, Panthers 9; Nov. 15, 1998. Carolina's defense held future Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino to just 140 yards and an interception on 14-of-21 passing, but Karim Abdul-Jabbar rushed for 127 yards and the game's only touchdown. The Panthers narrowed the Miami lead to a point in the second quarter, but could never take the lead and fell to 1-9.
BITS: Carolina's first-ever Thursday night game ... This is Carolina's second appearance on NFL Network; the team played a Saturday night game on the channel against Dallas in 2007 ... Carolina scored more points against the Dolphins in 2005 (24) than it did in its previous two games against them combined (15 points).
WHEN: Sunday, Nov. 29; 1 p.m. EST.
SERIES RECORD: Tied, 2-2.
LAST TIME: Panthers 30, Jets 3; Nov. 13, 2005. Six takeaways -- including five on successive possessions -- allowed the Panthers to break open a close game in the final quarter. Carolina scored 20 unanswered points thanks to the takeaways, with Will Witherspoon's 35-yard interception return with 5:30 remaining providing the punctuation on the Panthers' seventh win over the season.
LAST TIME AGAINST THE JETS IN EAST RUTHERFORD: Jets 48, Panthers 21; Nov. 29, 1998. One week after recording its second win of the '98 campaign, the Panthers fell back to earth, falling behind 38-7 en route to their 10th loss of the season. The Jets, who were on their way to a 12-4 record and the AFC East crown, outgained the Panthers 456 yards to 216 and only punted once.
BITS: Carolina's first win came at the Jets' expense -- a 26-15 triumph at Clemson's Memorial Stadium on Oct. 15, 1995. That win started a 7-4 run to close that season and a 20-8 run that spanned two years ... Each of the last three times these teams have played, the winner has gone on to the playoffs.
WHEN: Sunday, Dec. 6; 1 p.m. EST.
LAST TIME IN CHARLOTTE: Panthers 38, Buccaneers 23; Dec. 8, 2008. Carolina used a franchise-record rushing performance to pull away from the Bucs and claim a lead in the division that they would not relinquish for the rest of the season. Carolina managed to respond immediately to every Buccaneers score and never trailed, although the Bucs did force a 17-all deadlock as the fourth quarter began. From there, DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart took over; they combined for 301 yards, with each scoring two touchdowns.
BITS: This is the teams' third December game at Bank of America Stadium since 2005. They split the previous two ... Carolina has won four of its last six home games over the Bucs dating back to 2003 ... The 38 points the Panthers scored against the Bucs last December in Charlotte were the most in the series.
WHEN: Sunday, Dec. 13; 1 p.m. EST.
SERIES RECORD: Panthers lead, 2-1 (Patriots lead 1-0 in playoffs).
LAST TIME: Panthers 27, Patriots 17; Sept. 18, 2005. Stephen Davis' three touchdown runs helped the Panthers rebound from a season-opening loss to the Saints seven days earlier. The rest of Carolina's scoring was provided by John Kasay, who drilled a pair of field goals from beyond 50 yards, allowing the Panthers to build a 20-7 lead midway through the third quarter. An Adam Vinatieri field goal and a Mike Vrabel inteception return for a touchdown trimmed the Panthers' lead to three points. But momentum turned on a Mike Rucker sack of Tom Brady late in the third quarter. Brady fumbled and Julius Peppers recovered at the New England 12, setting up Davis' final score.
LAST TIME IN FOXBOROUGH: Panthers 20, Patriots 17 (overtime), Oct. 29, 1995. Carolina extended its first winning streak to three games and earned its first road win when John Kasay drilled a 29-yard field goal in sudden death. The Panthers had built a 17-3 fourth-quarter lead on two Kerry Collins touchdown passes -- one to Eric Guliford and another to Willie Green. A pair of Curtis Martin touchdown runs forced overtime. Derrick Moore led the Panthers with 119 rushing yards, and Carolina finished the game with 434 total yards, its most of the inaugural season.
BITS: A rematch of Super Bowl XXXVIII, won 32-29 by the Patriots at Reliant Stadium in Houston ... Panthers offensive coordinator Jeff Davidson was an assistant for the Patriots in that game ... This will be Carolina's first game at Gillette Stadium, which opened in 2002 ... The winner in the last three cames in this series has scored at least 27 points, averaging 32.3 points per game.
WHEN: Sunday, Dec. 20; 8:20 p.m. EST.
SERIES RECORD: Vikings lead, 5-3.
LAST TIME: Vikings 20, Panthers 10; Sept. 21, 2008. Touchdowns just before and immediately after halftime turned a 10-3 Carolina lead into a 17-10 deficit, propelling the Vikings to their first win of the season and dropping the Panthers from the league's unbeaten ranks after a 2-0 start. A Visanthe Shiancoe touchdown reception early in the third quarter put Minnesota in front to stay in a duel of teams that would end the season as division champions.
LAST TIME IN CHARLOTTE: Panthers 38, Vikings 13; Oct. 30, 2005. In what turned out to be Daunte Culpepper's final game as Minnesota's quarterback, the Panthers sprinted to a 24-0 halftime lead and cruised home for the win. Culpepper tore knee ligaments on the last play of the first quarter and Vikings never recovered, eventually falling behind 38-7 in the fourth quarter. Four different Panthers found the end zone, and Steve Smith paced the Panthers with 201 yards on 11 receptions.
BITS: This will be the Vikings' second trip to Charlotte; seven of the eight previous games took place in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome ... This is their fourth meeting in the last five seasons; they didn't play in 2007.
WHEN: Sunday, Dec. 27; 1 p.m. EST.
SERIES RECORD: Series tied, 2-2 (Panthers lead 1-0 in playoffs).
LAST TIME: Giants 34, Panthers 28 (overtime); Dec. 21, 2008. Arguably the most compelling game in the entire NFL regular season last year ended with a finish as bitter as the cold in which the game was played. Carolina took a 28-20 lead early in the fourth quarter on DeAngelo Williams' fourth touchdown run of the night, and had a chance to win after a game-tying touchdown and two-point conversion, but John Kasay's attempt at a game-winning, 50-yard field goal was wide left in the breeze, forcing overtime. Brandon Jacobs' two-yard plunge in sudden death sealed the game and playoff home-field advantage for the Giants.
BITS: This is the Panthers' fourth trip to Giants Stadium to play against the venue's namesake. All have come in the last six years, with none coming earlier in the year than Dec. 21 ... Carolina has averaged 29.0 points per game in its three trips to Giants Stadium ...
WHEN: Sunday, Jan. 3; 1 p.m. EST.
LAST TIME IN CHARLOTTE: Panthers 30, Saints 7; Oct. 19, 2008. A 39-yard touchdown pass from Jake Delhomme to Steve Smith helped the Panthers pull away from the Saints for a convincing win that helped them maintain a share of first place in the NFC South. Carolina closed the game with 23 unanswered points after the Saints grabbed a 7-3 lead early in the second quarter, using a steady offense and a defense that forced two takeaways and a pair of fourth-down stops.
BITS: This is the latest scheduled ending of the regular season in NFL history. The 2001 regular season ended on Jan. 6 after the Week 2 games were postponed to the end of the season after the Sept. 11 attack ... Carolina is 1-2 in January regular-season games ... This is the sixth time the Panthers and Saints have closed the regular season against each other in the last 11 campaigns, including the second in succession and third in the last four. Carolina is 4-1 all-time against the Saints in regular-season finales.