CHARLOTTE -- Since the Carolina Panthers are at home on the road, they might as well begin and end their season there.
The Panthers will kick off the 2008 season at San Diego, and close with four of their final six games away from home.
That's not necessarily a problem, since they've been better as the visitors under coach John Fox, posting a 27-21 record (.563) on the road against their 24-24 record at home.
The closing stretch will challenge them, as much as you can judge that this time of year.
After hosting Detroit on Nov. 16, they'll have back-to-back trips to Atlanta and Green Bay, followed by home games against Tampa and Denver before finishing the season at defending champion New York and the finale at New Orleans on Dec. 28.
As far as division games, the schedule's relatively balanced, with the first lap against Atlanta, Tampa Bay and New Orleans coming in Weeks 4, 6 and 7, with the last three in Weeks 12, 14 and 17.
The Tampa Bay game in Charlotte on Dec. 8 is the Panthers' lone prime-time appearance on ESPN's "Monday Night Football." They missed out on the hot new NBC Sunday game, though with flexible scheduling they could see a game move if they're in the playoff hunt.
Again, any amount of speculation about the difficulty or ease of the schedule's fruitless at this point, given the year-to-year and moment-to-moment changes around the league. However, going by last year's records, they have the ninth-easiest schedule in the league, facing opponents who were a combined 119-137 (.465) last year.
Including the champion Giants, the Panthers will have five games against playoff teams from last year, including Tampa Bay twice and the trips to play the Packers and Chargers.
Also, during a season in which they're retooling their defensive line, that spot will be tested early. They'll face last year's top two rushers (San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson and Minnesota's Adrian Peterson) in the first three weeks.
"Every season presents unique challenges," Panthers coach John Fox said in a statement released by the team. "We know we have a very difficult opening game at San Diego and play three division games in the first seven weeks, which will be very important.
"Things can change dramatically from week-to-week for every team. Having the bye in the middle of the season is usually a benefit."