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NFL power rankings: Panthers fall after deflating loss to Giants

National media hammers Carolina down to an average ranking of 24th

Carolina Panthers v New York Giants Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

It’s officially that time of the week: NFL Power Rankings. The Carolina Panthers lost their fourth game in a row to fall to 3-4 on the season. It was a pretty deflating effort in New Jersey on Sunday and Panthers fans are all, understandably, a little frustrated right now. Losing sucks. It especially hurts even more when the team started the season at 3-0, providing fans with what increasingly seems like false hope.

But it is worth noting that there’s still 10 games to be played this year and five of those games are against teams without winning records.

As expected, national media hammered the Panthers this week, with several outlets dropping the Panthers by six to seven spots. Ouch! Both NBC Sports and the New York Post dropped Carolina to 27th in the NFL after the poor showing.

Aggregating several rankings, the Panthers come out to an average of No. 24 (last week: No. 19) 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. 25 (was 19)

The Panthers will stick with Sam Darnold for now, because Sam Darnold’s backup is P.J. Walker, and P.J. Walker isn’t playing at Temple anymore. Matt Rhule has boxed himself into a corner: It’s becoming apparent he’s whiffed on his hand-picked starting QB for the second straight year, and the coach has no escape hatch ... for now, anyway. After Sunday’s ugly 25-3 loss to the Giants, reports surfaced that the Panthers are “evaluating their pursuit of a franchise quarterback,” and Carolina is expected to be involved in trade discussions for Deshaun Watson. The legal entanglements of Watson will likely keep him out of action no matter where he’s employed at the Nov. 2 trade deadline, but Carolina looks ready to make a major push for another hard-reset QB.

NBC Sports: No. 27 (was 19)

The Jets have a laundry list of issues, but they weren’t the problem with Sam Darnold. He’s just not good, and now the Panthers, who passed on Justin Fields and Mac Jones, are back to square one.

CBS Sports: No. 21 (was 18)

Sam Darnold is having big-time issues after his fast start. They can’t protect him either, which doesn’t help.

ESPN: No. 24 (was 17)

Prediction we missed: The offensive line.

I really was optimistic that Cameron Erving was the answer at left tackle, and that the Panthers had upgraded enough across the board to handle a few injuries on the line. Wrong, wrong, wrong. The line has been a mess, giving up 21 sacks over the past five games (4.2 average). Compare that with Sam Darnold’s three years with the Jets, when the line that gave up 2.5 sacks a game was called a mess. — David Newton

Sporting News: No. 23 (was 20)

The Panthers have gone into free fall as the real Sam Darnold has arrived in full force with Christian McCaffrey not around to bail him out. Matt Rhule may go to P.J. Walker, but there has to be some regret over not drafting a potential franchise QB in the first round last April.

Pro Football Network: No. 21 (was 19)

The Panthers are a bad football team. I called them a paper tiger when they were 3-0, but I didn’t see them devolving into mush so quickly. Their offensive line is a massive problem, and Sam Darnold still shows the same flaws that forced him out of New York.

Matt Rhule, Joe Brady, and the Panthers’ front office took a gamble on Darnold, and it hasn’t paid off. Hopefully, they’re self-aware enough to realize it and make a move going into 2022 because this team has talent.

The defense is still pretty good despite injuries to key players. If they can find an offense to play complementary football, they have the potential to be a top-five unit in 2022. The rest of this season should be about continuing to progress their young players.

I can’t imagine any of these teams making legitimate playoff noise. They either suffer from awful quarterback play, don’t play a lick of defense, or just don’t quite have enough talent to compete for the long term in 2021.

Yahoo! Sports: No. 21 (was 18)

A month ago, the Panthers were 3-0, thrilled with Sam Darnold and making two separate cornerback trades like they were playoff contenders. Since then they’re 0-4 and Darnold looks like a lost cause again. It has been a remarkable turn of events.

New York Post: No. 27 (was 19)

Sports Illustrated No. 24 (was 18)

Sam Darnold’s descent has been a troubling update for the Panthers, who are now floating in purgatory after a hot start. While Matt Rhule’s team deserves credit for trying to stay aggressive and take advantage of their early success, one has to wonder if their ultimate decision—getting rid of Teddy Bridgewater, leaving them between a rock and a hard place with Darnold and a prospective Deshaun Watson deal—will pan out in their favor.

DraftKings: No. 17 (was 8)

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. 18 (was 16)

The Panthers are moving to 18th on my list. As much as I had hoped to keep the team around the middle of the power rankings, unfortunately Sunday’s loss was just too jarring to keep them there. It was an ugly showing and my main question right now is seeing how Sam Darnold would respond next week (if he remains the team’s quarterback, which is pretty reasonable).

It’s not looking too pretty for Darnold at the moment, but who knows. Matt Rhule doesn’t have too many other options at the moment. On the Deshaun Watson front, we’re all going to see what the future holds by next Tuesday when the league’s trade deadline happens.