CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - The defending NFC South champion Carolina Panthers will play three nationally-televised games and face six playoff teams from last season, the NFL announced Wednesday.
Two of Carolina’s three nationally-televised games will be at home - a NBC Sunday night game against Pittsburgh on Sept. 21 and a Thursday night game against the division rival New Orleans on Oct. 30 on NFL Network.
Carolina will also travel to face Philadelphia on ESPN’s Monday Night Football on Nov. 10.
The Panthers will open the season with two games against teams featuring new head coaches - at Tampa Bay on Sept. 7 and home against Detroit on Sept. 14.
Carolina will host the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks for the third straight year on Oct. 26. The Panthers have lost the previous two meetings with the Seahawks.
Along with Seattle, Philadelphia and two games against New Orleans, the other playoff teams from last year the Panthers will face are Cincinnati and Green Bay.
The Panthers close the season with a road game at Atlanta on Dec. 28.
“Once again we knew it was going to be a challenging schedule regardless of the order of the games,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said in a news release. “It is important that we be ready because we are playing two teams with new head coaches to start the season and preparing for the uncertainties of a new staff can be difficult.”
It’s the second time in three years the Panthers have opened the season at Tampa Bay.
Things didn’t go well against the Bucs in 2012 when the Panthers lost on the road to first-year coach Greg Schiano. This time around the Panthers will face a team coached by Lovie Smith, who once employed Rivera as his defensive coordinator before letting him go.
Smith replaced Schiano this offseason.
Another interesting game will be Sept. 28 at Baltimore, when the Panthers face former wide receiver Steve Smith. Smith, who was released this offseason by the Panthers after 13 seasons, promised on Charlotte radio station WFNZ-AM that there will be “blood and guts everywhere.”