A look at the Carolina Panthers power rankings

USA TODAY Sports

It doesn't matter where you're from, chances are you think the Panthers will be kind of mediocre.

Preseason power rankings could be the most pointless thing in the world, in the grand scheme of things. They're often an attempt to play catch up from the previous year, and only serve to make overly-optimistic fans irate when their team is rated lower than expected ("THE COWBOYS WILL GO 16-0... ROMOOOOO!"). That being said, it is fun to look around the media to see what league experts are saying about the beloved Panthers. Will somebody recognize the major overhaul to the interior defensive line?

NFL.com

Ranking: 22

Elliot Harrison is essentially predicting a 7-9 or 8-8 team from the Panthers again in 2013, which is possible if the injury bug bites again. His focus is on the running game as being the primary issue holding back the Panthers.

Jonathan Stewart's injured ankles are a bit bothersome. With DeAngelo Williams recently turning 30, and the Carolina Panthers expected to half-junk the read-option, the club needs a classic running game on some level. As mentioned often, Cam Newton should not be the No. 1 rushing option. New offensive coordinator Mike Shula told the Charlotte Observer he wants his quarterback to be able to "play fast," but that doesn't necessarily mean with the football tucked under his arm.

While I'll concede the team need to concentrate on the ground game, a lot of that is mitigated by the fact Newton can run is absolutely necessary. Shula isn't going to fall on the sword out of some ideal to have Newton play as a pocket QB. If the Panthers need running and Double Trouble aren't doing it, the offense will turn to Cam.

ESPN

Ranking: 21

Mike Sando of the NFC West blog evaluated the Panthers' chances, and likes the moves made on the defensive line.

The defense should improve after the Panthers used their first two draft choices for DTs Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short.

Simple, and to the point. I'll agree the defense will improve, but it's important not to be goaded into thinking that we'll see a third-straight year with an impact rookie from week one. Lotulelei definitely has all the trappings of a future elite tackle, but there's no telling how rookies will adapt to the NFL. Just because Newton and Luke Kuechly made the jump doesn't mean Star can too.

CBS Sports

Ranking: 20

Pete Prisco has the Panthers creeping up there, slowly but surely.

The secondary hasn't been upgraded at all, which is a concern in their division. Cam Newton better put up a lot of points.

Yep, he kind of nails it. At best adding Drayton Florence and D.J. Moore is a lateral move when you consider losing Chris Gamble. The defensive line can get its pass rush going, but teams will score on the Panthers a lot in 2013 -- be ready for that.

SB Nation un-power rankings (lower is better)

Ranking: 16

The .500 rating for being a laughing stock is slightly better than the rest of the outlets gave Carolina. Writer Kenneth Arthur isn't as impressed with the improvements the Panthers made this year, especially in relation to the division.

Cam Newton has the ability to be like the best quarterback in the NFL. On defense, the Panthers double-dipped at tackle in the draft, addressing a major need. With an average defense and a high-flying Newton, Carolina could be 10-6.

The real question is whether or not Carolina's upgrades were as good as division-mate Tampa Bay. I don't think they were.

You might not like it, but it's hard to disagree. The Buccaneers are playing for 2013, while the Panthers are playing for the future. Electing to gamble on Darrelle Revis now might not make them a perennial contender down the road, but they're trying to strike while the iron is hot.

Will the Panthers be a weaker team in 2013 because of it? It's very possible, but ask me again in three years when Vincent Jackson's legs are getting tired right when Revis's will start aching too.

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