For the sixth time in seven seasons under head coach Ron Rivera, the Carolina Panthers will open the regular season on the road as the Panthers visit the San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium on Sunday, Sept. 10.
The NFL released the 2017 schedule on Thursday evening with the Panthers playing the NFC North and AFC East along with the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers, in addition to NFC South division foes. The season-opening trip to San Francisco marks the first time since 2011, and the third time in franchise history, that the Panthers play a season opener on the West Coast.
A familiar face returns to Charlotte in Week 2 as the Panthers host Buffalo and first-year head coach Sean McDermott, who served as Carolina’s defensive coordinator from 2011-16. The game will also be the first time that Carolina has hosted Buffalo in a home opener.
“Our coaching staff has already been hard at work preparing for our opponents, but it is always intriguing to find out when we’re playing the games,” head coach Ron Rivera said. “I’m excited to open our home schedule with a familiar face in Sean McDermott. He knows our team well, is an excellent coach and will have the Bills ready to play. It will certainly be a challenge for us, and I’m looking forward to it.”
Week 3 marks the beginning of division play when New Orleans comes to town. The Panthers then travel to New England to face the reigning Super Bowl Champion Patriots. This season marks the second consecutive year that the Panthers have played the reigning Super Bowl champions in the ensuing regular season. Carolina is 3-3 against New England, and has not traveled to Foxboro since 2009. New England is the first of six games against 2016 playoff teams.
After a trip to Detroit in Week 5, Carolina will host Philadelphia in a Thursday night contest on Oct. 12 on CBS/NFL Network/Amazon.
The Panthers will hit the road again for games at Chicago and Tampa Bay. A home game against the reigning NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons looms in Week 9 followed by Monday Night Football against the Miami Dolphins in Week 10.
The month of December features three consecutive home games against Minnesota, Green Bay and Tampa Bay. Carolina will then close the schedule at Atlanta, marking the fifth time that the Panthers and Falcons have met in Week 17 in Atlanta.
The Panthers could end up making more Sunday primetime appearances under the league’s flex scheduling policy, which allows a time change for a total of two NFL games between Weeks 5-9 and for many more games from Weeks 10-15 and 17. Flex scheduling will not affect games already scheduled for Thursday, Saturday and Monday nights.
The Panthers also finalized the team’s preseason schedule. Carolina’s preseason home opener against the Houston Texans will occur on Wednesday, Aug. 9, one day before the NFL window for preseason openers. The exception was granted to accommodate the PGA Championship taking place in Charlotte that weekend.
“We approached the NFL and the Houston Texans about moving our game to Wednesday in an effort to minimize the impact on city resources, and out of respect for our friends at Quail Hollow and the PGA,” executive director of stadium operations Scott Paul said. “We thank the NFL and the Texans for their cooperation.”
Carolina will play at Tennessee on Saturday, Aug. 19, before traveling to Jacksonville to face the Jaguars on Thursday, Aug. 24. The Panthers close out the preseason at home against Pittsburgh on Thursday, Aug. 31.