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Ranking the Four Toughest Games for the Carolina Panthers in 2016

The toughest games aren't always against the toughest opponents as other factors could play a factor in the outcome. Brandon Croce ranks the four toughest games of the 2016 season for the Carolina Panthers.

4. Week 6 at New Orleans Saints (October 16th)

Divisional games are always tough and this game is even tougher for the Carolina Panthers as they will have a short week to prepare for the Saints. This game will be the 43rd time the two teams meet and the Panthers lead the series 23-19 however they have won four of the last five times these two teams have met.

The Panthers are the more complete team however anytime a team has to face Drew Brees, they will need to have their best performance. When defensive coordinators have a full week to prepare, they still struggle slowing down the Saints quarterback and the Panthers coaching staff will only have six days after facing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday Night Football the week prior.

Any trip to the Superdome is tough, but on a short week it will make it just a little big tougher.

3. Week 1 at Denver Broncos (September 8th)

The first game after their Super Bowl loss and it is against the team that beat them on a national stage as it is also the first game of the entire 2016 NFL season. The Panthers are going to have to watch the Broncos raise that Super Bowl banner and there is no question that emotions will be running high.

These circumstances is why this game is third on the toughest games of 2016. The Panthers are going to need to make sure they don't beat themselves and play within the gameplan they develop.

There is a strong case that could be made that this Broncos team is not as strong as the one they faced in February in Santa Clara. The Broncos lost players like Peyton Manning and Malik Jackson and it remains to be seen exactly what this offense will look like now with Mark Sanchez.

The Panthers have not lost back to back games since November 30th, 2014 and with a win against the Broncos, they will keep that streak intact.

2. Week 16 vs. Atlanta Falcons (December 24th)

The Carolina Panthers will hope to get revenge on the Atlanta Falcons, who ended their bid at a perfect season in Week 16 of of the 2015 season. However, the coaching staff will not have as much time to prepare as they will be playing on Monday Night Football against the Washington Redskins before they face the Falcons the following Saturday.

The Falcons had a strong start to the 2015 season but faltered down the stretch, losing seven of their last nine games of the season. This season this Falcons team is sure to be tougher as Dan Quinn will be entering his second season as head coach and players have more familiarity with his schemes.

The Falcons still lead the series between these two teams with a record of 25-17 however the Panthers have won five out of the last seven. This game, at this point in the season, is sure to have plenty of playoff implications and both teams will be playing at a high level.

1. Week 13 at Seattle Seahawks (December 4th)

By far the toughest game on the Panthers schedule this season has to be Week 13 when they travel to Seattle to take on the Seahawks. This team has had the Panthers' number recently winning five straight games before 2015. However, the Panthers and Cam Newton finally got over the hump and beat them twice last year.

These two teams have met four times the past two seasons, meeting in the playoffs both years. They are more than familiar with one another and since 2012 there has been only one game that has been decided by more than a touchdown.

However, the Panthers will have some tough logistical decisions to make this year. The week before they face they Seahawks they will be playing the Raiders in Oakland which means they will have two straight games on the West Coast. The coaching staff will then have to make the decision of making two trips and dealing with jet lag or stay between games and deal with unfamiliar with training facilities and not having the comforts of home.

This game certainly has the makings of one of the best games of 2016 and it is sure to be the toughest on the Panthers schedule this year.

Twitter @BrandonCroce

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