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Carolina faces tougher opponents after 0-2 start

The Carolina Panthers lost 19-16 to the New York Giants on Sunday at MetLife Stadium.

Before the season, I had a sense of optimism and hope for this team. The black and blue acquired Baker Mayfield, an upgrade from Sam Darnold. Christian McCaffrey was healthy, and he could play for a few games before we worried about possible injury. The offensive line, which the Panthers coached harped would be the big rebuilding project, improved with the talent brought in.

But the first two games cast that hope and optimism asunder.

This was projected as the easier part of a tough schedule for the Carolina Panthers. Many sites projected the team for under 6.5 wins.

I came out and said I thought it was not giving the Panthers enough credit. I felt this team stood a chance against the Browns and Giants. In my humble opinion, I felt the team would be at least 1-1 or 2-0.

With losses of 26-24 and 19-16, the Panthers are playing close games. Arguably, the team is a few plays away from winning, at least what head coach Matt Rhule said.

But the NFL does not count almost wins nor a few plays away from winning. Carolina is 0-2.

Now, the week three game against New Orleans feels like another game the team should win, but it would not be surprising if the Panthers failed again.

If Carolina won these last two, especially after being down, then I could write more confidently about the team's ability.

I could say that because this team found ways to win that I feel confident the Panthers win against the Saints.

But I cannot lie to my readers, and to myself.

This game does not drum up any feeling of confidence, rebounding, or a need to make up for uncharacteristic mediocrity. The last feeling would be like if I were a Bengals fan and my team is 0-2, but the Panthers do not have that same factor.

At 0-2, and projected for 6.5, it is hard to see where the team can string together a good run. After this game where the Panthers will be either 1-2, or 0-3, it gets a lot tougher. Games against the Cardinals, 49ers, Rams, Buccaneers, Falcons, and Bengals are daunting. It is conceivable that the Panthers lose against the Saints and all the other opponents previously mentioned.

It feels terrible to write, but again had this team found ways to win, there would be more confidence.

As it stands at 0-2 against the easier opponents the Panthers faced, it feels like a mystery heading into a home game against New Orleans.