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2013 CAROLINA PANTHERS PREVIEW

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Beat reporters pick: Carolina Panthers’ most critical 3-game stretch in 2013

Carolina Panthers must take advantage of the early part of their 2013 schedule to prepare for a difficult finish.

  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/09/06/18/21/aPLRy.Em.138.jpeg|208
    Ben Margot - AP
    The Minnesota Vikings, led by head coach Leslie Frazier, are in the middle of a three-game October stretch of winnable games for the Carolina Panthers.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/09/06/18/21/18Qguo.Em.138.jpeg|215
    Marcio Jose Sanchez - AP
    The Carolina Panthers visit the San Francisco 49ers and quarterback Colin Kaepernick in the middle of a key three-game stretch in November.

Weeks 5-7

Oct. 6 at Arizona

Oct. 13 at Minnesota

Oct. 20 vs. St. Louis

The Panthers will be coming off a Week 4 bye when they travel to Arizona for what could be their easiest three-game stretch of a schedule that is ranked as the NFL’s toughest entering this season. This stretch is crucial to the team’s season for multiple reasons. If Carolina is under .500 going into the bye, here’s the Panthers’ chance to get some wins. And the Panthers cannot have another slow start. Three years and three slow starts under Ron Rivera could mean a head coach firing midway through the season, so it’s imperative the Panthers are above .500 going into Week 8 when they begin division play. - Jonathan Jones

Weeks 9-11

Nov. 3 vs. Atlanta

Nov. 10 at San Francisco

Nov. 18 vs. New England

While much has been made about the Panthers’ slow starts under Ron Rivera – and for good reason – the first-half schedule this season does not look particularly daunting. But things change dramatically in November when the Panthers face a three-week gauntlet that includes a home date with the NFC South favorite Falcons, followed by games against San Francisco and New England, popular choices to square off in the Super Bowl in February. If the Panthers survive this stretch with at least one win, there should be meaningful games down the stretch for a change. - Joe Person

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