Things aren’t going to be easy for the Panthers this year for many reasons.
But the schedule doesn’t exactly do them any favors.
The Panthers have the league’s hardest strength of schedule number for the 2013 season, as they’re playing teams with a combined 138-116-2 record (.543).
Of course, strength of schedule can be a remarkably overstated thing, for several reasons.
One, teams in the same division are generally clumped together, since the league’s scheduling rotation means each team plays 14 of the same opponents, with the final two based on divisional standings (ones play ones, fours play fours). Thus, the Panthers NFC south rival Saints are third, Falcons 15th and the Buccaneers 17th based on the current numbers.
For example, Each NFC South team plays six games in the division, along with facing the entire NFC West and AFC East.
The Panthers drew the Giants (9-7) and Vikings (10-6) as their two rotating intra-conference games, while the Saints got the Cowboys (8-8) and Bears (10-6), the Falcons will play the Redskins (10-6) and Packers (11-5) and the Bucs got the Eagles (4-12) and Lions (4-12).
Secondly, it all goes out the window once the season starts, and someone turns out to be much better than anyone anticipated.
But it’s February, and it’s something to talk about.
For what it’s worth, the league’s “easiest” schedule belongs to the Broncos, whose opponents had a combined 110-146 record (.430) last year.