Carolina Panthers schedule analysis

Breakdown: The Panthers have the NFL’s hardest schedule, with opponents combining for a .543 winning percentage in 2012. Six games are against opponents that went to the playoffs last season. But there’s plenty of good news that comes along with Carolina’s schedule. The Panthers will open at home against Seattle. That will mark the first time the Panthers will open at Bank of America Stadium since 2009. Plus, the Panthers, who haven’t had a winning season since 2008, will get some pretty good national exposure. They’ll appear in two prime-time games. They’ll play at Tampa Bay in a Thursday night game on Oct. 24 and they’ll host the New England Patriots on Nov. 18. The New England contest will mark the first "Monday Night Football" game from Bank of America Stadium since 2008. The way I see it, the first seven games will go a long way in setting the tone for Carolina's season. The Panthers, who have started off 2-8 in each of coach Ron Rivera's first two seasons, have to start fast because their schedule becomes much more difficult over the final nine games.

Complaint department: The bye for Carolina is coming in Week 4. That’s way too early because the Panthers will be only a month removed from training camp. The league also didn’t do the Panthers any favors by giving them back-to-back road trips to Arizona and Minnesota in the two weeks following the bye. But the biggest challenge of all may be the end of the schedule. Four of Carolina’s final five games will be against NFC South foes.

Quick turnaround: The biggest quirk on Carolina’s schedule might be the timing of the two New Orleans games. The Panthers will play in New Orleans on Dec. 8. Exactly two weeks later, the Saints will come to Bank of America Stadium. At least the scouting reports will be very fresh for the second meeting.

Panthers Regular Season Schedule (All times Eastern)

Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 8, Seattle, 1:00 p.m.

Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 15, at Buffalo, 1:00 p.m.

Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 22, NY Giants, 1:00 p.m.

Week 4: BYE

Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 6, at Arizona, 4:05 p.m.

Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 13, at Minnesota, 1:00 p.m.

Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 20, St. Louis, 1:00 p.m.

Week 8: Thursday, Oct. 24, at Tampa Bay, 8:25 p.m.

Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 3, Atlanta, 1:00 p.m.

Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 10, at San Francisco, 4:05 p.m.

Week 11: Monday, Nov. 18, New England, 8:30 p.m.

Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 24, at Miami, 1:00 p.m.

Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 1, Tampa Bay, 1:00 p.m.

Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 8, at New Orleans, 1:00 p.m.

Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 15, NY Jets, 4:05 p.m.

Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 22, New Orleans, 1:00 p.m.

Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 29, at Atlanta, 1:00 p.m.