Panthers schedule 2021: Dates & times for all 17 games, strength of schedule, final record prediction

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The Panthers finished 5-11 in the first season under coach Matt Rhule in 2020. That matched their record from their final season under coach Ron Rivera in 2019.

Carolina now will look for a second-year improvement in its massive rebuild while navigating through its 2021 schedule. After getting back into third place in the NFC South, the Panthers would like to get closer to the division-winning Saints and Super Bowl 55-winning Buccaneers.

For a second consecutive season, the team will have a new starting quarterback, this time former Jets first-rounder Sam Darnold. Rhule has more key pieces on defense and hopes the offense will also revive with a healthy Christian McCaffrey.

Here is a complete breakdown of the Panthers' 2021 schedule, including dates, start times and analysis for all 17 games.

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Carolina Panthers schedule 2021

The Panthers open the season against the Jets, which means Darnold gets his revenge game right away. That game takes place Sunday, Sept. 12, at 1 p.m. ET on CBS. 

Here is the Carolina Panthers' complete schedule for 2021.

Home: Buccaneers, Saints, Falcons, Washington, Eagles, Jets, Patriots, Vikings
Away: Buccaneers, Saints, Falcons, Cowboys, Giants, Bills, Dolphins, Cardinals, Texans

Week Date Opponent Kickoff time TV
1 Sept. 12 vs. Jets 1 p.m. ET CBS
2 Sept. 19 vs. Saints 1 p.m. ET Fox
3 Sept. 23 at Texans 8:20 p.m. NFL Network
4 Oct. 3 at Cowboys 1 p.m. Fox
5 Oct. 10 vs. Eagles 1 p.m. Fox
6 Oct. 17 vs. Vikings 1 p.m. Fox
7 Oct. 24 at Giants 1 p.m. Fox
8 Oct. 31 at Falcons 1 p.m. Fox
9 Nov. 7 vs. Patriots 1 p.m. CBS
10 Nov. 14 at Cardinals 4:05 p.m. Fox
11 Nov. 21 vs. WFT 1 p.m. Fox
12 Nov. 28 at Miami 1 p.m. Fox
13 Dec. 5 Bye Fox
14 Dec. 12 vs. Falcons 1 p.m. Fox
15 Dec. 18/19 at Bills TBD TBD
16 Dec. 26 vs. Bucs 1 p.m. Fox
17 Jan. 2 at Saints 1 p.m. Fox
18 Jan. 9 at Bucs 1 p.m. Fox

The Panthers still need to deal with Tom Brady's Buccaneers twice but will no longer face a Saints team led by Drew Brees. The Falcons have also made a change at the top are breaking in their new coach a season later.

In addition to the six NFC South games, Carolina gets all of the AFC East, which features its former QB Cam Newton with New England and the familiar members of the Buffalo organization. It also plays all of the NFC East, meaning another date with Rivera and Washington.

The NFC's Cardinals and Vikings are tricky third-place game opponents. The AFC's Texans are not.

MORE: Strength of schedule for all 32 teams in 2021

Panthers strength of schedule

The Panthers have the seventh-weakest schedule based on the combined 2020 record of their 2021 opponents (128-143-1, .473). The Buccaneers and Falcons have it even easier, while the first-place Saints have it a few notches tougher.

Carolina has four games against returning playoff teams in its own division. The only two other opponents who made the tournament were Sean McDermott's Bills and Rivera's Washington Football Team.

Toughest tests: The double dose of the Saints and Buccaneers remains a doozy. At home, the Panthers will sweat out the Patriots and Washington most outside of the division. The road has plenty of traps against the Cardinals, Cowboys, Dolphins, Bills and Dave Gettleman's Giants.

Biggest breaks: The Falcons twice makes for a good opportunity. The Texans should be the Panthers' easiest overall game. The Jets and Eagles at home aren't bad outside of the division.

Bottom line: The Panthers are undergoing more big changes in Year 2 of Rhule and offensive coordinator Joe Brady. Darnold is a absolute wild card in terms of what they might get out of him. Carolina's offense seems loaded well and the defense has its share of promising young playmakers. The problem is, the Buccaneers are stacked and the Saints remain strong. The Falcons also figure to be better.

Record prediction: 7-10

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