History Hints NFL’s Disrespect May Be a Good Sign for the Panthers

Carolina is the only team in the NFL without a primetime game

Bryce Young of the Panthers warms up.
Bryce Young and the Panthers got no love from the NFL's schedule makers.
Grant Halverson/Getty

The worst team in the NFL last season at 2-15 despite following a somewhat respectable 7-10 campaign in ’22, the Carolina Panthers are crossing their paws that undersized sophomore quarterback Bryce Young will make a second-year leap and take a huge step forward this year. Based on how the National Football League has arranged this year’s schedule for the Panthers, the NFL does not think Young’s second year in the pros is going to be any better than his first.

Selected to host the New York Giants in Munich in Week 10 in a standalone spot on a Sunday morning stateside, the Panthers are not scheduled to play in a single primetime game during the upcoming season. They are the only team in the NFL to hold that distinction. Even the Patriots, underdogs in every game on their 17-game schedule (as are the Panthers), have one primetime game, as they will appear on Thursday Night Football in Week 3 against the New York Jets. The Colts, Cardinals and Titans also only have a single primetime game apiece.

Interestingly, the Cardinals and Colts, along with the Falcons and Texans, had zero primetime games last year, a distinction that only the Detroit Lions held two seasons ago. What a difference a couple of years can make in the Not-For-Long NFL as the Lions were a game away from the Super Bowl last season while the Texans were one of the league’s darlings and made a surprise playoff appearance, winning a game. The Colts were a game away from reaching the postseason and the Falcons, while not really a playoff contender last season, are favored to win their division following the addition of quarterback Kirk Cousins this offseason.

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Taking all of that into account, perhaps the NFL’s disrespect for the Panthers may not actually end up meaning that Carolina, who drafted explosive playmakers for Young at wideout (Xavier Legette), running back (Jonathan Brooks) and tight end (Ja’Tavion Sanders), is the worst team in the NFL this season. The Panthers, who have a first-time head coach in Dave Canales and traded their most accomplished defensive player, two-time Pro Bowl pass rusher Brian Burns, to the Giants, may not be good, but they could be better than expected. With a projected win total of 5.5, the Panthers can’t be much worse than last year and if they’re better than the NFL thinks maybe they’ll see primetime at the end of the year.

“It is still possible, with flexible scheduling, that the Panthers could get flexed into a national television window,” according to ProFootballTalk. “They’ll have to be a much better team than anyone expects for that to happen. As it is, the NFL is trying to keep the Panthers out of prime time.”

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