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Wednesday, January 5, 2011
Carolina's reward: NFL's hardest schedule

By Pat Yasinskas
ESPN.com

The Carolina Panthers will have the No. 1 pick in the 2011 draft. The team with the NFL’s worst record in 2010 also will have the league’s hardest 2011 schedule.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Carolina’s 2011 opponents had a combined 142-114 record in 2010. That’s a .555 winning percentage and it puts Carolina at the top of the list. Buffalo is second with opponents combining for a .535 winning percentage.

New Orleans is the only other NFC South team whose opponents combined for a winning percentage over .500 in 2010. New Orleans’ opponents were 130-126 (a .508 winning percentage) and that ties the Saints for the 13th toughest 2011 schedule.

Tampa Bay comes in at No. 18 with opponents compiling a 127-129 record (.496) in 2010 and Atlanta’s tied for No. 19 with opponents holding a 126-130 record (.492).

So why do the last-place Panthers end up with the toughest schedule? Well, they can thank the rest of the NFC South for that. The Saints, Bucs and Falcons all had double-digit wins and each of them counts twice as an opponent because they’ll play the Panthers twice.