My first impressions of the Panthers' 2009 schedule... (which can be found in full at the end of this blog)
** The schedule's here -- that always a good thing. I love looking at the NFL schedule in April in the same way I love reading departure signs in some big airport to remind me of the places I've been (I'm quoting Jimmy Buffett there, for you non-parrotheads). It gives you a tantalizing glimpse of what the fall will look like.
** Opening the season at home (Philly) and closing it at home (New Orleans) -- to me, those are both solid advantages for Carolina. Those bookends are key for establishing momentum and -- if the Panthers have the sort of season they want -- establishing a playoff seeding.
** There's a nice change-of-pace on the days this time. For the past several years, the Panthers played practically every game Sunday at 1 p.m. In recognition of their fine 2008 season, they're all over the place this time -- a road game on Monday night, a home game on a Thursday, maybe a Sunday night home game (the Dec.20 game against the Vikings could be moved to the afternoon).
** Man, that's a tough schedule! I've never seen one that looks worse on paper for the Panthers. It's the second-toughest schedule in the NFL based on last year's standings.
** The bye week is too early. Week 4? A definite disadvantage. No breaks for the final 12 weeks of the season -- you can count on a couple of key injuries in that 3-month stretch that would have benefited from a midseason bye.
** Show me a month it looks easy. You can't. That's what Carolina gets, of course, for going 12-4 last season (well, 12-5 when you include the monstrosity that was the Arizona game). What a challenge this will be. But, as always, it'll be fun.
PANTHERS' 2009 SCHEDULE
Sep. 13 Philadelphia Eagles 1:00pm
Sep. 20 at Atlanta Falcons 1:00pm
Sep. 28 at Dallas Cowboys (Mon) 8:30pm
Oct. 4 BYE
Oct. 11 Washington Redskins 1:00pm
Oct. 18 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1:00pm
Oct. 25 Buffalo Bills 4:05pm
Nov. 1 at Arizona Cardinals 4:15pm
Nov. 8 at New Orleans Saints 4:05pm
Nov. 15 Atlanta Falcons 1:00pm
Nov. 19 Miami Dolphins (Thu) 8:20pm
Nov. 29 at N.Y. Jets 1:00pm
Dec. 6 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1:00pm
Dec. 13 at New England Patriots 1:00pm
Dec. 20 Minnesota Vikings 8:20pm
Dec. 27 at N.Y. Giants 1:00pm
Jan. 3 New Orleans Saints 1:00pm