Carolina fans are still pinching themselves as a reminder that this season’s 15-1 record was real and not a dream as Ron Riviera’s team ripped through their 2015 schedule with consummate ease. Not even their most ardent fan though will believe that a repeat performance, or even going one better, is possible in 2016. Carolina will, however, welcome back promising wide-out Kelvin Benjamin who will bolster a passing attack that has had to rely a little too heavily on TE Greg Olsen. With that in mind, we take a look at the teams standing between the Panthers and perfection in 2016. HOME AWAY T.B. Buccaneers T.B. Buccaneers New Orleans Saints New Orleans Saints Atlanta Falcons Atlanta Falcons Arizona Cardinals Los Angeles Rams San Fran. 49ers Seattle Seahawks Kansas City Chiefs Oakland Raiders SD (LA) Chargers Denver Broncos Minnesota Vikings Washington Redskins
Nice & Easy
San Diego (LA) Chargers The Chargers were down to their bare bones on defense last year, particularly in the secondary and with that unit almost certain to lose its best player in Eric Weddle this offseason it is difficult to see much improvement from that unit. San Diego will also need to deal with the retirement of stalwart WR Malcolm Floyd and, given Luke Keuchly’s ability to defend TEs in the pass game, are unlikely to see high level production in this game out of the slowing Antonio Gates. It is a struggle to see where the Chargers find a favourable matchup in this one.
Arizona Cardinals Since Arizona’s defensive backfield tackles so well they are able to play nickel defense on all downs and the added speed this puts on the field goes a long way to negating Cam Newtons ability to make plays with his legs. Speed is also Arizona’s best weapon on offense and, as good as they are, Luke Keuchly and Thomas Davis, will be put under pressure by the abilities of David Johnson coming out of the backfield. The Cardinals matchup well with Carolina so this could be a tough outing for the reigning NFC South Champs.
Prime Time Potential
Seattle Seahawks These 2 teams are almost mirror images of each other – strong defences, good run game, mobile Quarterbacks – and always play each other tough. They are also 2 of the best teams in the NFC and it wouldn’t be a stretch to see the winner of this weekend’s playoff matchup as the NFC representative in the Super Bowl. A regular season rematch will be a prime game in 2016 with the loser this weekend looking for some small token of revenge.