The Carolina Panthers are set to embark on Year 2 of the Matt Rhule regime, this time with a new quarterback under center and (hopefully) a healthy All-Pro running back behind him.
It’s been six years since the Panthers’ appearance in Super Bowl 50, and since then they’ve qualified for the postseason only once, parting ways with the face of the franchise in Cam Newton prior to the start of the 2020 campaign.
Let’s dive into a preview for the 2021 version and what to expect for the upcoming season.
Carolina Panthers 2021 Schedule
Much like its fellow NFC South resident Atlanta Falcons, Carolina has instilled little faith in the networks to occupy prime-time slots. Unless they get flexed later in the season, the Panthers are only scheduled to play one game in front of a national audience, a Thursday night matchup with the Houston Texans in Week 3.
In fact, every game on their schedule is set for a 1 p.m. EST kickoff with the exception of their Week 10 contest in Arizona.
Arguably, the portion of the Panthers’ schedule that stands out the most has to be the final quarter of the slate. Down the stretch, they’ll face the Buffalo Bills, New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers twice in their final four games of the season, three of which will come on the road.
|Week 1||Sept. 12||vs New York Jets|
|Week 2||Sept. 19||vs New Orleans Saints|
|Week 3||Sept. 23||at Houston Texans|
|Week 4||Oct. 3||at Dallas Cowboys|
|Week 5||Oct. 10||vs Philadelphia Eagles|
|Week 6||Oct. 17||vs Minnesota Vikings|
|Week 7||Oct. 24||at New York Giants|
|Week 8||Oct. 31||at Atlanta Falcons|
|Week 9||Nov. 7||vs New England Patriots|
|Week 10||Nov. 14||at Arizona Cardinals|
|Week 11||Nov. 21||vs Washington Football Team|
|Week 12||Nov. 28||at Miami Dolphins|
|Week 13||Dec. 5||Bye week|
|Week 14||Dec. 12||vs Atlanta Falcons|
|Week 15||Dec. 19||at Buffalo Bills|
|Week 16||Dec. 26||vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
|Week 17||Jan. 2||at New Orleans Saints|
|Week 18||Jan. 9||at Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
Carolina Panthers News & Picks
Carolina Panthers 2020 Summary
Rhule brought in Teddy Bridgewater to be the bridge between Newton and whomever took over as the long-term answer at quarterback in the future. The experiment lasted just one year as Bridgewater proved to be a disappointment in a 5-11 campaign, winning just two of their final 11 games.
It didn’t help that Christian McCaffrey played in just three games after suffering ankle and shoulder injuries following an offseason that saw him become the NFL’s highest-paid running back of all time. Mike Davis was an adequate replacement, but CMC accounted for 43 percent of the team’s offense in 2019 — the highest ever — so filling those shoes was unrealistic.
Carolina Panthers Key Players
The Panthers may have lost all three games McCaffrey played in last year, but it was clear how much of a difference he makes and how much the offense missed him. He’s as key as it comes in the National Football League. We’ll also get more into the man handing him the ball this season in the next section as he definitely qualifies as a key piece.
Shaq Thompson is entering his seventh NFL season, all in Carolina, and has established himself as the new leading man at linebacker, following in the leadership footsteps of Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis. Thompson played in all 16 games for the first time last year and finished second on the team in tackles.
Carolina Panthers New Additions
We’ve teased it long enough. After Rhule and the Panthers’ brass decided Bridgewater wasn’t the answer and traded him to Denver for a sixth-round draft pick, they followed that up by acquiring Sam Darnold from the New York Jets for three picks.
Three weeks after making the deal, Carolina picked up Darnold’s fifth-year option, essentially guaranteeing that this is a two-year tryout.
The Panthers had a top-10 pick for the second year in a row, going defense in the first round for the third straight year when they nabbed Jaycee Horn, a cornerback from South Carolina. They added to their offensive arsenal as well, grabbing LSU wide receiver Terrace Marshall in the second round and insurance for McCaffrey in the fourth in the form of Oklahoma State running back Chuba Hubbard.
Carolina Panthers Key Subtractions
The focus will always be on the quarterback position, so Bridgewater merits mentioning in this spot again. He’s now in the Mile High City competing with Drew Lock for the starting job, though the Aaron Rodgers and Deshaun Watson situations loom heavily.
Marshall’s services were needed to fill out a quality receiving corps when Curtis Samuel bolted for Washington in free agency, garnering a $34M deal after spending his first four years in Charlotte.
After eight years with the Panthers, Kawaan Short was let go following two disappointing seasons that both ended with him on the injured reserve.
The Panthers are projected to finish in third again in 2021, despite the change at QB. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the clear favorite with New Orleans behind them despite its own uncertainties at the most important position on the field.
Atlanta is the longshot in the NFC South, but this Panthers team offers some serious value. They’re trying to capture their first division crown since 2015, which capped a stretch where they finished first in three straight years.
Carolina Panthers Offense
Marshall may take some time to plug the hole left by Samuel, but that’s also why the team brought in veteran David Moore from Seattle. With McCaffrey back in the fold, Darnold has the best group of playmakers he’s had since entering the league.
Robby Anderson and DJ Moore both went over the 1,000-yard mark last season, but struggled to find the end zone, combining for just seven receiving touchdowns.
Carolina Panthers Defense
The Panthers addressed a major need in adding Horn at corner. Jeremy Chinn is proving to be a Pro Bowl-type player at the safety-linebacker hybrid position and Haason Reddick reunites with his former Temple coach after four seasons with Arizona.
The Panthers allowed more than 25 points per game last season but finished middle of the pack in terms of passing and rushing yards allowed.
What is the Carolina Panthers' all-time record?
Who owns the Carolina Panthers?
How many Super Bowls have the Carolina Panthers won?
Zero (Two Appearances – 2015, 2003)
What division are the Carolina Panthers in?