The Falcons and Saints have fielded strong teams in recent years while the Buccaneers and Panthers are only now starting to flex their competitive muscles.
As is true in every division in the National Football League, the teams in the NFC South must play home-and-home games against each other. This likely spells “doom” for one or more of the competitors.
The Panthers, however, believe that doom is not in their forecast in 2015. That’s why they seem to relish their home games against each of their divisional rivals. The first of those games will take place when New Orleans visits on September 27th. Atlanta’s Falcons will visit the Panthers on December 13th while Tampa Bay’s Bucs will close out the regular season on January 3rd.
Of course, the Panthers will have to play their rivals on the road. So they will travel to Tampa Bay on October 4th, to New Orleans on December 6th and to Atlanta on December 27th.
Graphic via patrickschneider
The outcomes of these home-and-away divisional games could go a long way in determining which, if any, of these teams “punches its own ticket” to the postseason.
The Carolina Panthers may have a real good chance. The collective winning percentage of their opponents last year was only .434. For that reason, the squad from the Carolinas has the sixth easiest schedule in the National Football League in 2015.
In addition to games against their divisional foes, the home team Panthers will also host the Philadelphia Eagles in a Sunday night game on October 25th and the Andrew Luck-led Indianapolis Colts in a nationally-televised Monday night game on November 2nd.
Other visitors will include the Green Bay Packers, the Houston Texans and the Washington Redskins. All three games present real challenges to the young and up-and-coming Panthers, but each game is easily winnable by the home team.
Road games also offer challenges to the Panthers. They will travel to Dallas for the home team’s annual Thanksgiving Day game on November 26th. They will also visit Seattle on October 18th and the Eli Manning’s New York Giants on December 20th.
A close look at the schedule reveals what now seems obvious. There are some tough opponents, some games that seem easy (on paper) and, on balance, a schedule that probably is favorable to the team from the South.
But whether the schedule is difficult or easy will be determined on the field of play. If the Panthers are “the real deal,” Cam Newton and his team will be entertaining fans well into January of 2016.
Graphic via snipview