How’d they do in 2017?
The Panthers were one of three in the division to make it to the postseason – eking in during the wildcard round only to lose to the rival and NFC South-winning New Orleans Saints. It was the third loss Carolina suffered at the hands of New Orleans in 2017. While the Panthers couldn’t seem to get past the Saints, they still finished with an 11-5 record overall. Despite being swept by New Orleans, had Carolina won their last regular season game against the Atlanta Falcons, they would have taken the division. It likely wouldn’t have changed much though as they would have still had to face the Saints in the wildcard round.
The 2017 Panthers pulled out some major wins against the eventual Super Bowl Champions in the Philadelphia Eagles and handed the New England Patriots a home loss in Week 4. Roster-wise, the biggest loss Carolina suffered this offseason was when left guard Andrew Norwell departed for Jacksonville in free agency, but the Panthers quickly signed guard Jeremiah Sirles from the Vikings to create some competition at the position. Carolina also added defensive tackle Dontari Poe, who has been a familiar opponent coming from the Atlanta Falcons. Poe is a two-time Pro Bowler and will be playing alongside Kawann Short who has a Pro Bowl of his own under his belt, making it evident the Panthers put an effort in shoring up both sides of the trenches. Carolina also added wide receiver D.J. Moore in the 2018 draft out of the University of Maryland to a new-look receiver corps for quarterback Cam Newton. If Newton can get comfortable with his new targets, don’t expect the Panthers to miss a step come the 2018 regular season.
Anything interesting between the two teams?
Where to begin? As division rivals, the two teams have played one another 35 times with the Panthers leading the all-time series 22-13. The last time the two teams played was on Christmas Eve in Carolina during Week 16 in 2017 where the Buccaneers held a six-point late in the fourth quarter. The Panthers scored a last-minute touchdown on a two-yard rush from quarterback Cam Newton to make the final score 22-19. While Carolina won both games between the two teams in 2017, the Bucs swept the season series in 2016. Sounds like the Bucs are due to get out their brooms this season.
What about off the field?
The Panthers play in Charlotte, North Carolina but are far from the most prominent sport in town. Charlotte and the surrounding area is home to the headquarters of about 75 percent of NASCAR teams. It is also home to the Charlotte Motor Speedway and the NASCAR Hall of Fame executive offices. Though, the official NASCAR headquarters are actually in Daytona Beach, Florida, it seems to be king in Charlotte.
So… what if I want to go?
The first meeting with the Panthers comes in Week 9 in Carolina. To be there for that, you’ll have to take an hour and 40-minute flight into Charlotte or drive the 580 miles it is between the two cities. You’ll get another opportunity to see the division rivals in Week 13 at Raymond James Stadium for a 1 p.m. kickoff.