Panthers earn national game in preseason

Two AFC division champions, including a nationally televised game against the Kansas City Chiefs, highlights the Carolina Panthers' preseason schedule.

Carolina opens with home games against Buffalo (6-10) the weekend of August 8-10, followed by an August 17 8 p.m. game against the Chiefs (11-5). It finishes on the road against New England (12-4) and Pittsburgh (8-8).

It will be the 12th consecutive year the Panthers and Steelers have met in the preseason finale.

The Panthers are 36-41 overall during the preseason. Does the record make a difference? Carolina has finished .500 or better in its five playoff appearances, including 3-1 this past season before going 12-4.

A team-best 4-0 record in 2003 ended with the team's only Super Bowl appearance.

In the seven preseasons when Carolina lost at least three games it never had a winning regular season.

So maybe there's something there.

Most of Carolina's preseason focus will be on the offense with the top four wide receivers from last season gone and quarterback Cam Newton coming off ankle surgery that will force him to miss the four months prior to training camp.

But you can't read too much into what happens in the games. The first-team offense scored just one touchdown last season, then went on to rank 18th in points per game.

Carolina will face one of the receivers it lost in free agency in Brandon LaFell, now with New England. I'm sure some reporter will remind him of his comment that he chose the Patriots because he wanted to play with a Hall of Fame quarterback.

Some took that as a shot at Newton.

Overall, the schedule should be a good test for Carolina as it looks to set the tone for consecutive winning seasons for the first time in team history.