The NFL released the preseason schedule on Thursday. Dates and times haven’t been announced, but here’s a first look at the opponents for the Carolina Panthers:
Week 1 (Aug. 11-15) at Baltimore Ravens
Comment: Steve Smith may get one more shot at the Panthers, who released their all-time leading wide receiver after the 2013 season. Smith’s 2015 season with Baltimore was cut short by a torn Achilles tendon. The Ravens may opt to hold the soon-to-be 37-year-old receiver out and not push his return until the regular season. Smith had seven catches for 139 yards and two touchdowns in a Sept. 28, 2014, game against his former team. Regardless of whether he plays, this should be a good first test for Carolina.
Week 2 (Aug. 18-22) at Tennessee Titans
Comment: These teams haven’t met in the preseason since 2010, a 15-7 Carolina win. The Panthers won 27-10 at Tennessee last season thanks to a fast start by quarterback Cam Newton, who completed his first 11 passes, the longest streak of his career. This game also was when Newton unveiled the Atlanta-based dance called the “dab’’ after a 1-yard touchdown run. It became Newton’s signature move for much of the season and somewhat of a national phenomenon.
Week 3 (Aug. 25-28) vs. New England Patriots
Comment: What better way for the Panthers to give their starters a dress rehearsal for the season than against Tom Brady and arguably the best team in the AFC. If Ron Rivera is looking for a measuring stick, this will be it since coaches tend to play their starters for three quarters in the third game before resting them in the finale. These teams have met the past two preseasons with New England winning both, 17-16 last season and 30-7 in 2014.
Week 4 (Sept. 1) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Comment: These teams have met in the preseason finale every year since 2003. Last year’s game was unique in that for the first time one team hosted in consecutive years because a college football game between North Carolina and South Carolina was scheduled for Charlotte. Carolina won the last three meetings, including a 23-6 victory last season. This one will mark the homecoming of running back DeAngelo Williams, Carolina’s all-time leading rusher who was released following the 2014 season.