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NFL power rankings: Panthers take a tumble after deflating loss

Newest rankings suggest national media still not sure what the Panthers are

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Carolina Panthers Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

It’s officially that time of the week: NFL Power Rankings. The Carolina Panthers dropped to 3-2 on the season after a deflating loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. Carolina’s movement in the various rankings seemed pretty fair this week, with most outlets dropping them by three to four spots. Interestingly, Albert Breer over at MMQB improved the Panthers from 15 to 11.

Meanwhile, Pro Football Network’s writer continues to amuse me on a weekly basis, this week doubling down on the “paper tiger” comment made last week. But when the Panthers were 3-0, said writer proclaimed “this is the kind of Carolina Panthers team I expected to see.” I admire the strategy: just toss out completely opposite takes about a team in consecutive weeks. One of them is bound to stick!

It’ll be interesting to see how the Panthers fare on Sunday when they host the Minnesota Vikings, and how national media will respond afterwards.

Aggregating several rankings, the Panthers come out to an average of No. 15 (last week: No. 14) in the 32-team NFL.

Let’s check out what outlets around the league are saying about the Panthers after Week 5:

NFL.com: No. 14 (was 14)

Christian McCaffrey returned to practice last week — now the Panthers need their superstar RB back on Sundays. The Carolina offense sputtered again in a frustrating loss to the Eagles that featured three Sam Darnold interceptions and pass-protection issues that we didn’t see before No. 22 exited with a hamstring injury in Week 3. Such is the importance of McCaffrey, a driving force in both the running and passing games. He seems especially essential to Darnold, whose turnover-prone ways have returned without his safety valve sliding out of the backfield. “Sam needs to take what’s given him,” Matt Rhule said. “If we do that, we’ll get back on track quickly.”

NBC Sports: No. 15 (was 13)

Carolina’s offensive line has major issues and Sam Darnold has the lowest passer rating (65.6) of any starting QB in the past two weeks.

CBS Sports: No. 15 (was 12)

Two straight losses has them reeling a bit. The offense didn’t do much against the Eagles, which is a concern. They need Christian McCaffrey back.

ESPN: No. 12 (was 12)

Most improved player: WR DJ Moore

How they’ve improved: Consistency is the biggest difference. Moore had an outstanding 2020 season, but his catch rate (66 of 118) was only 55.9%, and he had only four receiving touchdowns. His catch rate this year is 70% (35 of 50), and he already has three receiving touchdowns. He has become Sam Darnold’s favorite target, not Robby Anderson, as some expected. — David Newton

Sporting News: No. 17 (was 15)

The Panthers’ offense has been missing Christian McCaffrey badly as Sam Darnold, hot rushing start at all, has started to show his true colors as a struggling passer. It won’t get any easier next week with the Vikings replacing the Eagles as the visitors.

Pro Football Network: No. 18 (was 14)

When the Panthers were 3-0, I wrote that they were a paper tiger. Well, their collapse against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 5 should be all we need to understand now.

Their offensive line is a problem, and Sam Darnold is looking like the same player he was in New York — even with Joe Brady doing good work as OC. Now, with injuries to key defensive backs Jaycee Horn, Juston Burris, and Troy Pride (each of whom is on IR), it doesn’t appear Carolina’s defense can continuously get stops when needed.

Yahoo! Sports: No. 14 (was 15)

For a Panthers team that is aggressively adding cornerbacks in the trade market, presumably because they think they can be a playoff team, Sunday was a horrible loss. They should have won. Three Sam Darnold interceptions were really costly. For all of Darnold’s moments looking good this season, he can unravel it all if he gets into a turnover slump. That’s always been the knock on him.

New York Post: No. 18 (was 14)

Sports Illustrated - Albert Breer: No. 11 (was 15)

DraftKings: No. 6 (was 4)

DraftKings has moved from subjective assessments to using spread differential. Point differential is a helpful tool for figuring out the best and worst teams. However, point spread can offer a little more context to how good or bad teams might be. The top of the rankings includes most of the really good teams and the bottom includes most of the really bad teams.

Czikk’s view: No. 16 (was 17)

I’m still pretty happy keeping the Panthers around the middle of the pack. They’re clearly not among the ten worst teams in the league, but likely not among the top ten teams either. I’m becoming more convinced that the Panthers are destined for a 10-7 or maybe an 11-6 season. A wild card playoff birth is very reasonable for this team, despite Sunday’s poor performance.