Revenge or vindication? Panthers 2021 schedule filled with games that could be both
By Richard Walker
When the Carolina Panthers got their 2021-22 NFL schedule on Wednesday, a theme of the season is the number of games that can be considered “revenge” or “vindication” contests.
It starts in the Sept. 12 opener when new Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold faces the team that just traded him when Bank of America Stadium hosts a season opener for the fourth straight year against the New York Jets at 1 p.m.
Darnold, the No. 3 overall selection in the 2018 NFL draft out of Southern California, passed for 8,097 yards and 45 touchdowns in 38 starts for the Jets in the past three seasons before he was traded to Carolina for a 2021 sixth-round pick and second- and fourth-round picks in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Later in the season, the Panthers face their former NFL MVP quarterback Cam Newton and the New England Patriots in Charlotte, former head coach Ron Rivera and his new team the Washington Football Team for the first time in Charlotte and have a road meeting at the New York Giants and former Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman.
And that’s not even counting the six matchups between the Panthers and their three NFC South rivals that are hotly contested on an annual basis.
Carolina, which is coming off a 5-11 season in 2020, has only one scheduled prime time game – on Thursday, Sept. 23 when the Panthers visit the Houston Texans.
The Houston game was the last added contest after the NFL added a 17th regular sesaon game and Carolina has eight home games and nine road games.
The Panthers’ bye week comes in the 13th week of the 18-week NFL season. It’s the fifth time Carolina has had its bye after the 10th week of the season; Previous late byes came in 2001 (Week 15), 2014 (Week 12), 2017 (Week 11) and last season (Week 13).
Carolina also announced its three preseason opponents.
Here’s the full schedule with notes on each regular season game:
TBD at Indianapolis
Aug. 20-22 Baltimore
Aug. 27 Pittsburgh
Sept. 12 New York Jets, 1 p.m.
New Panthers QB Sam Darnold faces his old team in the first meeting between the teams since 2017. Carolina holds a 4-3 all-time series lead that began with the Panthers’ first-ever franchise victory on Oct. 15, 1995; Carolina won 26-15 in a game played at Clemson’s Memorial Stadium.
Sept. 19 New Orleans, 1 p.m.
The Panthers most-played rivalry is renewed for the 54th time. Carolina has lost at home four straight times to the Saints, who now have a 14-12 lead over the Panthers in Carolina home games.
Sept. 23 at Houston, 8:20 p.m.
The latest schedule addition will be only the sixth meeting between the teams and first since 2019. Charlotte has won two of the three meetings in Houston.
Oct. 3 at Dallas, 1 p.m.
The Panthers play at AT&T Stadium for the first time since routing the Cowboys 33-14 in 2015. Dallas still holds a 9-5 overall series lead that includes 4-2 in Cowboys’ home games.
Oct. 10 Philadelphia, 1 p.m.
The last time the teams met was in 2018 when Carolina rallied late for a 21-17 victory over the eventual Super Bowl champion Eagles. Philadelphia leads the all-time series 7-5, including 3-2 in Panthers’ home game.
Oct. 17 Minnesota, 1 p.m.
The Panthers host Minnesota for the first time since a 31-24 Carolina win in 2017. The Vikings’ 28-27 victory last season gave Minnesota a 9-6 all-time series advantage but the Panthers lead 3-2 in their home games.
Oct. 24 at New York Giants, 1 p.m.
The Panthers play the Giants of former Carolina general manager Dave Gettleman for the first time since a dramatic 33-31 Panthers’ win in Charlotte in 2018. In that game, then-Carolina kicker Graham Gano hit a game-winning 63-yard field goal; Gano now plays for the Giants.
Oct. 31 at Atlanta, 1 p.m.
Carolina ended a five-game losing streak at Atlanta with a 23-16 victory last season. The Falcons still hold a 19-7 all-time lead over the Panthers in home games.
Nov. 7 New England, 1 p.m.
How many No. 1 Cam Newton Panthers’ jerseys have regularly been on display at Carolina games since he was the No. 1 overall pick in 2011? Well, Newton gets his first chance to play in Charlotte in another team’s jersey.
Nov. 14 at Arizona, 4:05 p.m.
The teams meet for the third straight season and second time in three years in Arizona. Carolina holds a 13-5 series advantage, including 5-2 in road games. The teams also have played three times in the playoffs – all in Charlotte – in 2009, 2015 and 2016.
Nov. 21 Washington, 1 p.m.
A year ago, former Carolina head coach Ron Rivera lost 20-13 to his former team. This time, he’ll make his first appearance in Charlotte as a head coach of another team. The Panthers are 4-3 all-time at home against Washington.
Nov. 28 at Miami, 1 p.m.
Carolina makes its first trip to Miami since a 20-16 Panthers’ victory in 2013. The Dolphins lead the all-time series 4-2, including 2-1 in games played in Miami.
Dec. 5 BYE WEEK
Dec. 12 Atlanta
Carolina looks to snap a three-game home losing streak to the Falcons. Atlanta, which has won five of the last six games in Charlotte, has a 14-12 series lead in Panthers’ home games.
Dec. 18 or 19 at Buffalo, TBD
The ties between the franchises run deep and will be a storyline for the Carolina’s first game in Buffalo since 2013. Bills head coach Sean McDermott is a former Panthers defensive coordinator and many former Carolina players are on his current roster.
Dec. 26 Tampa Bay, 1 p.m.
The Panthers lost 46-23 at home to the eventual Super Bowl champion Buccaneers a year ago. Carolina still holds a 12-9 all-time home series lead over Tampa Bay. More good news is the last time Tampa Bay won the Super Bowl, Carolina swept the Buccaneers the following season en route to the franchise’s first Super Bowl.
Jan. 2 at New Orleans, 1 p.m.
Carolina has lost two straight and five of the last six meetings at New Orleans. The Saints also have a 28-25 all-time series advantage over the Panthers entering the 2021-22 season.
Jan. 9 at Tampa Bay
Carolina has lost two straight games at Tampa Bay and leads the all-time series in road games 12-8.