Carolina Panthers schedule analysis

Breakdown: The Panthers might be catching a bit of a break with a season-opening game against an Arizona team that also had a rough time in 2010. But things get tough right after that, as the Panthers host the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers in Week 2.

Four of Carolina’s first six opponents were in the playoffs last season and the Panthers have to face division powers New Orleans (Oct. 9) and Atlanta (Oct. 16) in back to back weeks. That could make for a challenging start for the Panthers if they draft quarterback Cam Newton and decide to play him from the start. In fact, after looking at the schedule and assuming the Panthers do draft Newton, they might want to take a path similar to what the Buccaneers did with Josh Freeman in 2009 and sit the rookie for basically the first half of the season.

There is a bright side to the difficult start to the schedule. The Panthers get to play six of their first nine games in the friendly surroundings of Bank of America Stadium.

Complaint department: Here’s what a 2-14 season will do for you. It will get you absolutely no run in prime time. Fifteen of Carolina’s games are scheduled to start at 1 p.m. ET. The only exception is the opener and that’s only because they don’t start games at 10 a.m. in the Pacific time zone.

Rivera’s return: Perhaps the best storyline on Carolina’s schedule is the Oct. 2 game at Chicago. That’s where new Carolina coach Ron Rivera once played for the Bears and later worked as an assistant coach. Also, the Panthers will get a chance to spend some quality time with their old friend Julius Peppers.

Panthers Regular-Season Schedule (All times Eastern)

Week 1: Sunday, Sep. 11, at Arizona, 4:15 PM

Week 2: Sunday, Sep. 18, Green Bay, 1:00 PM

Week 3: Sunday, Sep. 25, Jacksonville, 1:00 PM

Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 2, at Chicago, 1:00 PM

Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 9, New Orleans, 1:00 PM

Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 16, at Atlanta, 1:00 PM

Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 23, Washington, 1:00 PM

Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 30, Minnesota, 1:00 PM

Week 9: BYE

Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 13, Tennessee, 1:00 PM

Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 20, at Detroit, 1:00 PM

Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 27, at Indianapolis, 1:00 PM

Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 4, at Tampa Bay, 1:00 PM

Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 11, Atlanta, 1:00 PM

Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 18, at Houston, 1:00 PM

Week 16: Saturday, Dec. 24, Tampa Bay, 1:00 PM

Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 1, at New Orleans, 1:00 PM