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Ranking the Panthers' Opponents by Difficulty

Which teams give the Panthers the most challenging games? We rank each of the opponents on the 2022 schedule.

Last Thursday, the Carolina Panthers' schedule was released. Today, we look at the difficulty of the schedule and rank each opponent based on how challenging that team will be for the Panthers.

Note: This is not ranking the degree of difficulty for each game, which is why only 14 are listed. Tampa, New Orleans, and Atlanta are only listed once instead of twice. 

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

With Tom back in the fold, I can't have any other team at No. 1. In my opinion, they have the best roster in the NFC and I don't think it's really close. Yes, the Rams are good but they lost a few pieces off of that Super Bowl winning team. 

2. Cincinnati Bengals

Prior to this offseason, the biggest weakness for the Bengals was the offensive line. After adding Alex Cappa, Ted Karras, and La'el Collins, it has turned into a strength. There are very few weaknesses on this team which is why we will see them make another deep run in the postseason. With no replacement for Haason Reddick, Brian Burns is going to have a tough time getting to Joe Burrow.

3. Los Angeles Rams

This might be a day where the Panthers offense gets lucky to put up 10 points. For them to win this game, they're going to need a lot of breaks to go their way but more importantly, piece together a strong defensive outing. These young corners the Panthers have are good, but I don't see them shutting down Cooper Kupp and Allen Robinson all game long. 

4. Baltimore Ravens

A healthy Lamar Jackson will give any defense trouble. That said, it's the other side of the ball that should concern Panthers fans in this one. The secondary is stout and the Baltimore front seven may be one of the best in the league. Similar to the Rams game, they almost HAVE to win the turnover battle to win this game and that's something they really had trouble doing a year ago.

5. San Francisco 49ers

Believe it or not, I think Jimmy Garoppolo will still be the starting quarterback for the Niners. I know they want to move him, but there's no market for him. He has one year left on his contract which will give Trey Lance another season to sit and develop. Although a defense shouldn't be fearful of Garoppolo, he makes them a much better team at this moment. 

6. Denver Broncos

I'm not sold on the Broncos becoming a Super Bowl contending team all of a sudden just because they have Russell Wilson. Does he make them better? Absolutely. But this isn't a roster that will runaway with the AFC West and honestly, I could see them finishing fourth in that division. 

7. New Orleans Saints

It's hard to find a hole on the Saints' roster on either side of the ball. Some may say quarterback, but Jameis Winston was 5-2 as the starter last year before going down with a season-ending injury. Now that they get Michael Thomas back fully healthy and Chris Olave lined up on the opposite side, the Saints have some serious weaponry. 

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8. Arizona Cardinals

Matt Rhule is 2-0 against the Cardinals and with DeAndre Hopkins suspended the first six games of the season, he won't be playing against the Panthers. This is a game where Carolina's young secondary can really shine and force the Cardinals to run the ball into the teeth of Derrick Brown and Matt Ioannidis. This is a good matchup for Carolina. 

9. Cleveland Browns

There has been no punishment handed down from the league to Deshaun Watson just yet. However, the consensus around the league is that he will likely be suspended six games and with the Browns opening the season in Carolina, it makes for a very winnable game. Jacoby Brissett would fill in as the starter. 

10. Pittsburgh Steelers

Pittsburgh's defense can get after the quarterback, but that's pretty much it. The secondary was terrible in 2021 and the linebacking unit wasn't very good either. With an improved offensive line, the Panthers have a real shot of winning this game as long as they can keep Darnold/Corral upright. Pittsburgh may have one of the worst offenses in the league.

11. New York Giants

I firmly believe that Brian Daboll will turn the Giants around, but it won't be in 2022. Last year's game in New York was an absolute disaster in every way imaginable. I don't see that repeating itself this time around, especially with a better offensive line and a stronger special teams unit. 

12. Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks are not going to be very good regardless of who is at quarterback, but they still have DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett which keeps them above the Falcons and Lions. 

13. Atlanta Falcons

If the Panthers could win in Atlanta, there's a good chance the Falcons will go winless in divisional play this year. The roster is in really bad shape and could be one that leads them to the No. 1 overall pick in next year's draft. 

14. Detroit Lions

The Lions are getting better, but they're still a ways away from being competitive. There's not much that needs to be said here.

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