With the NFL’s draft and free agency period coming to a close, organizations are in the preliminary stages of their virtual off-seasons. During this period, coaches and coordinators alike are connecting with players, both virtually and in-person, preparing them for the upcoming season. To keep with the trend, we here at Last Word on Pro Football are directing our focus on the upcoming season as well. This article is the first part in a two-part series where we will be ranking each team’s 2020 matchups from hardest to easiest. With that being said, today we will be taking a look at some of the Carolina Panthers most difficult games in 2020.
Carolina Panthers Most Difficult Games in 2020
1. Week 9: vs Kansas City Chiefs
This match-up will no doubt be the hardest one for the Panthers in 2020. Kansas City is stacked from top-to-bottom with some of the league’s most talented players. 2019 MVP Patrick Mahomes leads KC’s star-studded offense, a unit that features names like Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins. As good as their offense is, the Chiefs defense is nothing to scoff at either. Led by star defensive back Tyrann Mathieu, the Chiefs’ stifling defense will likely give a young Panthers’ team some problems offensively. If the Panthers can score early and often, they give themselves a chance in this tough matchup. While this game isn’t totally out of reach, it will take a monumental effort and a bit of luck for the Panthers to pull off a win against a talented Chiefs team mid-season.
2. Week 2: at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
After an eventful offseason, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are putting the final touches on their incredible roster. Headlined by quarterback Tom Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski, the Buccaneers’ roster is one of the most talented in the league. For that reason, the Panthers Week 2 match-up versus the Buccaneers ranks number two on our list. The Bucs elite receiving core will likely give a young Panthers secondary problems early and often, which could make this match-up a blow-out early. If, however, the Panthers defense can hold it together long enough for Teddy Bridgewater and the offense to put some points on the board, the team has a chance in this match-up.
3. Week 7: at New Orleans Saints
The NFC South is full of competitive football teams and the Saints are no different. Their high-powered offense and stifling defense have made them a burden to play for any team in the last several seasons. For that reason, the Panthers Week 7 match-up versus the squad comes in at number three on our list. Legendary quarterback Drew Brees and star wide receiver Michael Thomas have formed a deadly duo down in New Orleans, which could cause problems for a young Panthers’ defense.
Not only does their all-star personnel make this match-up incredibly difficult, but the environment in which this match-up will be played in is no joke. The Superdome is notorious for being loud and rebellious and often causes panic and confusion among opposing teams. If the Panthers can drone-out the crowd noise and focus in on the game, they give themselves a decent chance in this one. With some luck and good coordination, the Panthers should be able to stay competitive in this match-up, despite it being one of their toughest all season.
4. Week 15: at Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers may be getting into the latter years of his prime, but he’s still one of the best quarterbacks in the league. Despite having a less-than-average receiving corps apart from Davante Adams, Rodgers still managed to drag the Packers all the way to a conference championship in 2019. With that being said, it’s safe to assume he’ll be doing much of the same in 2020, which could cause problems for the Panthers. The unforgiving weather paired with the Packers’ electric offense could cause problems for a young defense who’ll be looking to find their identity in 2020. The Panthers’ offense could also suffer in this match-up, with the weather heavily effecting the skill-position players. For these reasons and more, the Panthers’ Week 15 match-up versus the Packers comes in at number four on this list.
5. Week 17: vs New Orleans Saints
Once again, the New Orleans Saints make an appearance on our list. When analyzing this particular match-up, we must go a bit in-depth with our predictions. You see, if the Saints are far and away leading the NFC South by Week 17 of this upcoming season, then it’s highly likely that they’ll sit their starters for this late-season match-up. If that happens, the ability for the Panthers to win this match-up will be increased exponentially. However, we predict that the NFC South will be a tight race down to the finish, so it’s likely that the Saints will be playing their starters during this Week 17 match-up, hoping to grab another division win.
With that being said, the Panthers will likely have their hands full in this game. The Saints’ potent passing and rushing attack could present problems for a young Panthers defense. Add on the fact that the Saints defensive line is one of the best in football, the Panthers should definitely prepare themselves for a battle come Week 17. However, this match-up is a home game for the Panthers, so the home field aspect could give the Panthers an extra boost, one that they desperately need. If the Panthers can control the high-powered Saints offense long enough for Bridgewater and the rest of the Panthers offense to put some points on the board, the squad can give themselves a decent chance to win this match-up.
6. Week 12: at Minnesota Vikings
Coming in at number six on our list is the Panthers Week 12 match-up versus the Minnesota Vikings. Headlined by Kirk Cousins and Adam Thielen, the Vikings potent offense could give a young Panthers defense problems in this match-up. The running attack for the Vikings is no joke as well, with star running back Dalvin Cook slicing up defenses left and right. If the Panthers hope to win this game, they must find a way to minimize the productivity of Cook. By doing this, the Panthers are forcing quarterback Kirk Cousins to beat them through the air, which will mean the Panthers secondary must be able to deal with the Vikings passing game. If the Panthers defense can minimize the productivity of Dalvin Cook and stifle the Vikings’ passing game, the team should be able to stay competitive in this game.
7. Week 10: vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers
For the second time today, the Bucs are making an appearance on our list. This Week 10 match-up will mark the second time all season that these two teams will go head-to-head. The Panthers once again will have their hands full with a talented Buccaneers team.
The Buccaneers’ high-powered offense may give a young Panthers defense some issues, which could be a major problem for the Panthers. The defense of the Buccaneers is no joke either, with the unit featuring many talented starters. However, the Panthers will play this match-up at home, which could give them a slight advantage. If the Panthers can control the Buccaneers’ passing game, they could walk out of this one with a quality win.
8. Week 4: vs Arizona Cardinals
One of the biggest worries for the Panthers in 2020 will be whether or not their secondary will be able to contain their opponent’s passing games. Lucky for them, their Week 4 match-up should be a good test for the young defensive core.
With big-time receivers like Larry Fitzgerald and DeAndre Hopkins taking the field opposite of them, the Panthers’ young secondary should have their hands full. In addition to their receiving corps, the Panthers will need to find a way to slow down rising star quarterback Kyler Murray, who can pose a threat through both through the air and on the ground. If the Panthers’ defense can prove serviceable in this game, then the score will likely be close down to the wire. If the Panthers’ offense can move the chains against the defensive unit of the Cardinals, the team should be able to escape this one with a solid win at home.
Be sure to check out the eight easiest games on the Carolina Panthers 2020 schedule.