CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Carolina Panthers’ 2023 schedule was released along with the rest of the NFL slate Thursday.
Getting two prime-time games reflects the national interest in former Alabama quarterback Bryce Young, the No. 1 overall pick of the this year's draft and 2021 Heisman Trophy winner.
Carolina hasn’t had more than one game under the lights in a season since 2018, which was also the last time it was on Monday Night Football. This season they face the New Orleans Saints on MNF in Week 2.
Fittingly, that gives Young a chance to excel under the lights in his first home game for Carolina.
Here's what's in store for the Panthers:
Sept. 10: at Atlanta
Sept. 18: vs. New Orleans (MNF)
Sept. 24: at Seattle
Oct. 1: vs. Minnesota
Oct. 8: at Detroit
Oct. 15: at Miami
Oct. 22: BYE
Oct. 29: vs. Houston
Nov. 5: Indianapolis
Nov. 9: at Chicago (TNF)
Nov. 19: vs. Dallas
Nov. 26: at Tennessee
Dec. 3: at Tampa Bay
Dec. 10: at New Orleans
Dec. 16 or 17: vs. Atlanta
Dec. 24: vs. Green Bay
Dec. 31: at Jacksonville
Jan. 6 or 7: vs. Tampa Bay
Strength of schedule: .453 (27th toughest)
Young may only be a rookie, but star quarterbacks like him attract prime-time games (See Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes, etc.). Carolina had only seven prime-time games the past five seasons after having a team-record five in 2016 with Cam Newton the quarterback coming off a trip to the Super Bowl.
Young not only brings the Panthers star power, he brings them credibility they didn’t have the past three seasons with retread quarterbacks.
It’s hard to imagine Chicago Bears wide receiver DJ Moore calling this a “blood and guts’’ game the way Steve Smith Sr. did in 2014 the first time he faced Carolina after the team moved on from him and he signed with Baltimore. Moore is not that kind of guy. But this is a chance for Moore to show the Panthers they made a mistake in trading him to Chicago as part of the deal to acquire the first pick of the draft to get Young.
And while we’re on revenge for wide receivers, Carolina’s Adam Thielen has to be licking his chops for a Week 4 game against the Minnesota Vikings, who moved on from him because of his age (32) and large salary cap number.
Young, currently listed second on the depth chart behind Andy Dalton, will be the Week 1 starter against Atlanta. He’ll get off to a 2-0 start on his way to winning Offensive Rookie of the Year just as Newton did in 2011 after being the No. 1 overall pick of that draft. Young will one-up Newton (6-10 as a rookie) by leading Carolina to the playoffs for the first time since 2017 in an NFC South that is up for grabs since the retirement of Tom Brady.