After clinching third place in the NFC South by virtue of their 48-16 blowout of Tampa Bay, the Panthers' 2012 schedule is pretty well set.
Besides divisional games, the NFC South will be paired with the NFC East and AFC West next season. The Panthers also will face the third-place teams from the NFC North (Chicago) and NFC West (the winner of Sunday's Arizona-Seattle game).
Here's how it breaks down:
Home games: Atlanta, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Dallas, New York Giants, Arizona/Seattle winner, San Diego, Oakland.
Away games: Atlanta, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Philadelphia, Washington, Chicago, Kansas City, Denver.
A couple of observations:
The Chicago trip will mark the third time the Panthers have faced DE Julius Peppers since Peppers left Carolina as a free agent. Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott will get a chance to play his hometown Philadelphia Eagles and exact a little revenge on Andy Reid, who fired McDermott last offseason.
And while Ron Rivera will not return to ...