The Carolina Panthers have an exciting slate of games lined up for the 2021-22 season. From Sam Darnold’s revenge game to Cam Newton’s return, the storylines are there. With a young and rebuilding team though, whether or not the wins are there could be a completely different story.
Here are our initial game-by-game predictions for the Panthers this year.
Week 1 vs. Jets
Just months after trading for QB Sam Darnold, his former team visits Charlotte to make for a dramatic season-opener matchup. The Panthers should have a relatively simple task ahead of them to kick off this season, with the Jets (2-14 last season) having plenty of holes even after getting a new coach and drafting Zach Wilson.
Prediction: Panthers win (1-0)
Week 2 vs. Saints
Carolina’s first intra-division test is a home matchup vs. New Orleans, another team testing out lesser-proven options at QB. It’s not hard to imagine either Taysom Hill or Jameis Winston struggling early in the season to fill the void left behind by Drew Brees’ retirement.
Prediction: Panthers win (2-0)
Week 3 at Texans
Fans should be happy that the team’s only primetime game is one that is extremely winnable, as Carolina faces a struggling Texans squad ranked dead last in Touchdown Wire’s post-draft power rankings. Houston’s messy quarterback situation is only the tip of the iceberg.
Prediction: Panthers win (3-0)
Week 4 at Cowboys
The Cowboys were gutted with injuries last season, the most notable of which was to their star quarterback: Dak Prescott. With a healthy Prescott and weapons like Amari Cooper and Ceedee Lamb, Dallas will likely hand Carolina their first loss of the year.
Prediction: Panthers lose (3-1)
Week 5 vs. Eagles
Jalen Hurts and Sam Darnold are both young, unproven starters in the NFL, and this game could be decided by who takes better care of the ball. Carolina’s offensive firepower should be more than enough to overwhelm a lackluster Philly defense, though.
Prediction: Panthers win (4-1)
Week 6 vs. Vikings
Fresh off a shootout offensive victory in Charlotte, the Panthers face a tougher matchup against the Vikings. If they’re able to contain Dalvin Cook, Carolina should avenge last year’s fourth-quarter collapse.
Prediction: Panthers win (5-1)
Week 7 at Giants
This is a trap game. While New York stumbled to a 6-10 record in 2020, Dave Gettleman managed to piece together a strong draft class this spring, headlined by edge rusher Azeez Ojulari and Elerson Smith to make for a deadly pass-rush.
Prediction: Panthers lose (5-2)
Week 8 at Falcons
Just the second divisional matchup in eight weeks, the Panthers travel down to Atlanta. Julio Jones or no, the Falcons still don’t have a defense that can contain Christian McCaffrey.
Prediction: Panthers win (6-2)
Week 9 vs. Patriots
Eight weeks after Darnold beats his former team in Charlotte, Cam Newton has the chance to do the same, here. Following an aggressive offseason to equip Newton with receivers, the Patriots should be poised for a bounce-back year.
Prediction: Panthers lose (6-3)
Week 10 at Cardinals
Even if the streaky Kyler Murray doesn’t have a great game, the Cardinals’ lethal pass rushing combination of Chandler Jones and J.J. Watt will ensure that Darnold has a rough day.
Prediction: Panthers lose (6-4)
Week 11 vs. Washington
The Panthers beat Washington last season when it didn’t matter, and they could lose to Washington this season when it does. Equipped with a competent quarterback, Curtis Samuel and a top-five defense, Ron Rivera should get his revenge game.
Prediction: Panthers lose (6-5)
Week 12 at Dolphins
Just a year after one of the biggest turnarounds in recent history, Miami should be anticipating a playoff run for the Dolphins this season. With a little luck, the Panthers could pull off an upset, though.
Prediction: Panthers win (7-5)
Week 13: BYE
Week 14 vs. Falcons
After beating Atlanta on their territory, the Panthers defend their own stadium in Charlotte fresh off a bye week before a devastating stretch to close out the season.
Prediction: Panthers win (8-5)
Week 15 at Bills
The Bills figure to be a postseason threat again this year and this young Carolina squad is unlikely to be much of a bump the road. Josh Allen took a huge step forward last season and might go off against the team that picked one of the two QBs drafted ahead of him.
Prediction: Panthers lose (8-6)
Week 16 vs. Buccaneers
The Panthers don’t face the division-rival Buccaneers until very late in the season, which is fortunate. Another near-full season of experience should help this defense after getting pummeled by Tampa twice last year.
Prediction: Panthers win (9-6)
Week 17 at Saints
The Panthers end their 2021 season with a pair of division road games and neither will be easy. By Week 17, New Orleans likely would have figured out their quarterback situation and should get the win at home.
Prediction: Panthers lose (9-7)
Week 18 at Buccaneers
Fresh off an embarrassing loss Week 16, the defending champion Bucs look to end their season strong in Tampa. Bruce Arians, Tom Brady and company could push for a blowout and send a message going into the playoffds.
Prediction: Panthers lose (9-8)
Final Record: 9-8