Are the Panthers the team to beat in the NFC West? We'll have a good idea after they host the 49ers in a Monday-nighter on Sept. 29. Will the Panthers be a serious playoff threat again? We'll know after Weeks 11 and 12, when Carolina travels to Denver (Nov. 9) and San Francisco on successive Sundays. Do the Panthers have a shot at the Super Bowl? A seven-day span in December will tell: Carolina travels to Dallas for a Monday-night game (Dec. 8) and then plays host to Green Bay.
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE
NFL rank: 16 (tie)
Opponents' 1996 winning percentage: .492
Games against playoff teams: 6