Which NFL team is hurt or helped by its schedule?

April 21, 2011

Pity the Panthers

Sam Farmer

Los Angeles Times

The Panthers had better hope the lockout ends soon so they can patch up their quarterback situation … or goes on for a while and wipes out some of their schedule.

Despite coming off a league-worst 2-14 season, the Panthers have the toughest 2011 schedule (based on 2010 records), facing teams that were a combined 142-114-0 (.555). Four of their first six games are against playoff teams from last season, and they have a three-game stretch in October against the Bears, Saints and Falcons.

There's a good chance they'll take Auburn quarterback Cam Newton with the first pick, and, if so, they'll have to get him up to speed quick. It could be a rough start for new coach Ron Rivera. But at least Rivera can take solace in this: The Panthers don't have any prime-time games, so there probably won't be a lot of people watching them.

sfarmer@tribune.com

Chargers' road rough

Dan Pompei

Chicago Tribune

The two teams that got the fewest breaks with the schedules are the Chargers and Bears.

The Chargers have to travel 26,740 miles. They will play four games in the Eastern time zone and another in the Central time zone. Their opponents had a 133-123 record last year. They face a particularly rough stretch beginning Oct. 23, with road games against the Jets and Chiefs, followed by home games against the Packers and the Raiders, which will be played on a Thursday night.

The Bears, meanwhile, will travel 20,802 miles. The Bears have an extra exhibition game, as well as a trip to London, both of which could exact a toll. Their first three opponents, the Falcons, Saints and Packers, had a combined winning percentage last season of .708.

dpompei@tribune.com

No breaks for 49ers

Jamison Hensley

Baltimore Sun

Jim Harbaugh, the 49ers' new coach, has a daunting challenge of turning around a team without an established quarterback.

On Tuesday, the NFL schedule-makers didn't do him any favors, especially in the second half of the season. The tough stretch begins with a showdown against his brother John's Ravens, on Thanksgiving night, which forces the 49ers to make a cross-country trip to Baltimore only four days after playing the Cardinals at home. But that's just the start of the 49ers' late-season, frequent-flier miles.

They finish by traveling for three of their final four games, and their last home game is against the Steelers in prime time.

Harbaugh was hired because he turned Stanford into a national title contender, but it won't take him too long to see there are no Sacramento States on this schedule.

jhensley@tribune.com

Tough start for Rams

Nick Fierro

Morning Call

The Titans only travel 7,000 miles for the season and face the 25th-hardest schedule, based on last season's records.

However, they've turned over their coaching staff and don't know who their quarterback will be when they finally do get back to business, so it's doubtful they will be able to take advantage.

The team you have to feel for most is the Rams, who made an encouraging leap under second-year coach Steve Spagnuolo last season, missing the playoffs by just one game.

This season, the Rams could be better but still be 0-3 (following games against the Eagles, Giants and Ravens) by the time they host the Redskins on Oct. 12. Then it's an early open date, followed by trips to Green Bay and Dallas. Ouch.

nfierro@tribune.com

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