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Ranking the Carolina Panthers' Remaining Opponents

The Carolina Panthers made it one step closer to history with a win over the Tennessee Titans. They are now 9-0 and it is hard not to imagine the "What if" of whether or not the Panthers can go undefeated? Brandon Croce ranks the Panthers' remaining games and which team's present the biggest challenges.

7) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Week 17)

There isn't necessarily easy teams in the NFL but of the remaining games on the Carolina Panthers schedule, this is one the Panthers' should feel the most confident winning. They have already faced the Bucs once this year winning 37-23 in Week 3 in Tampa Bay. 

The Bucs are a young team that have a number of rookies playing significant snaps for them. The fact that they are playing at the end of the year could be the difference for this game. However, the Panthers are at home and if they are entering this game at 15-0, they are sure to be determined to end the regular season with a win.

6) vs. Washington Redskins (Week 11)

Next on this list is actually the Panthers' next game when they face the Redskins at home, who are going to have plenty to play for next Sunday. The Redskins are coming off a 47-14 win over the New Orleans Saints and at 4-5 are only one game out of the NFC East division lead.

The Redskins have played much better the past few weeks, winning two out of their last three games with the lone loss coming against the New England Patriots. This is due in large part to the improved play of Kirk Cousins, who has averaged 286 passing yards and thrown eight touchdowns and one interception over this stretch. 

5) at New Orleans Saints (Week 13)

The New Orleans Saints had shown some life as of late winning three straight before losing their last two games against the Tennessee Titans and Washington Redskins and are currently last in the NFC South at 4-6. 

However, it is hard to count out any team led by Drew Brees, who has thrown 18 touchdowns this year and 12 in the past three games, especially when he is playing at home. However, the Saints defense is near the bottom in almost every statistical category and is giving up an average of 31 points per game.

The Panthers have already played the Saints this year, beating them 27-22, but this was without Brees under center for the Saints. Any divisional game is tough and being on the road makes it a little tougher. The Panthers will have the benefit of having close to 10 days to prepare for them as they will play on Thanksgiving Day the week before.

4) vs. Atlanta Falcons (Week 14)

This is the first time the Panthers will face the Falcons over a three game stretch as they will also travel to Atlanta in Week 16. After a fast start to the season, winning their first four game, the Falcons have lost three of their last four including a 17-16 loss to the San Francisco 49ers

The Falcons have seen a shift in their offense from relying on the arm of Matt Ryan and wide receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White in year's past to the explosive running of Devonta Freeman. The second year running back out of Florida State has averaged 80 rushing yards this year and has nine rushing touchdowns.

The match-up between the Falcons and Panthers has been fairly even as both teams have won five games over the past 10 games played at Bank of America Stadium.

3) at Dallas Cowboys (Week 12)

This is hard to imagine but the Cowboys are 2-7 and are currently stuck in the middle of a seven game losing streak. So why would a 2-7 team be this high in the rankings?

Well for one, they are expected to have quarterback Tony Romo back for this game and the Cowboys are 2-0 this year with Romo under center. This is certainly a more complete football team and one that has talent at every level.

The other concern is the fact that the Panthers will have to play the Cowboys on a short week as they will play the Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day. The Cowboys have proven to be tough to beat on Turkey Day winning six of their last nine games.

2) at NY Giants (Week 15)

The second toughest game left on the Panthers' schedule includes a trip to the Meadowlands to take on the New York Giants. This is a team that not only is atop the NFC East at 5-4 but is coming off a 27-26 loss to the undefeated New England Patriots. The Giants also have plenty of experience ending undefeated streaks as they ended the Patriots in the Super Bowl in 2007.

The other thing that has to be taken into account is the possibility for inclement weather, as New York at the end of December certainly has the potential for wind and snow. The weather may not have the same kind of impact on the Panthers as some other teams as this team is built for those kind of games with a strong run game and tough defense.

1) at Atlanta Falcons (Week 16)

The toughest game on the Panthers schedule has to be their Week 16 trip to Atlanta to face the Falcons. As mentioned before, this will be the second time facing the Falcons in a three-week period and this game could be decided by which team is able to make the necessary adjustments based on the first game.

The other thing that has to be taken into account is how tough it is to sweep divisional opponents. In the organization's history, the Panthers have only swept the Falcons three times with the last time taking place in 2013. If there is one game to single out on this schedule that could be the toughest hurdle, it will be Week 16 against the Falcons.

Twitter @BrandonCroce.

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