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NFL power rankings: Panthers mostly stay put after first loss of season

NFL media beginning to point out flaws in Panthers game

Carolina Panthers v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

It’s officially that time of the week: NFL Power Rankings. The Carolina Panthers dropped to 3-1 on the season after a 36-28 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.

Most of the power rankings below dropped the Panthers by one to two positions or kept them at the same rank as last week. However, national media is starting to pick at flaws in Carolina’s game, a fairly predictable response following the team’s first loss of the season. NBC Sports perhaps put it most aptly when they wrote the Panthers “don’t get to play the Jets and Texans every week.” They certainly do not.

Aggregating several rankings, the Panthers come out to an average of No. 14 (last week: No. 13) in the 32-team NFL.

Let’s check out what outlets around the league are saying about the Panthers after week 3:

NFL.com: No. 14 (was 13)

The Panthers took their first loss of the season because of a disastrous third quarter in Dallas. Carolina went into the tunnel up 14-13 at the half but was outscored 20-0 over the next 15 minutes of game time. The Cowboys’ defense rattled Sam Darnold by shifting to a blitz-heavy scheme that produced a long field-goal miss, a three-and-out, then back-to-back Trevon Diggs interceptions. Darnold and the offense did well to battle back in the fourth quarter with two touchdown drives, but Dallas successfully ran out the clock with its power running game. One brutal quarter aside, the Panthers acquitted themselves well against a high-quality opponent. No need to panic.

NBC Sports: No. 13 (was 13)

Bad offensive line play, mistakes by Sam Darnold and no Christian McCaffrey doomed the Panthers against the Cowboys. The Panthers need to clean things up because they don’t get to play the Jets and Texans every week.

CBS Sports: No. 12 (was 9)

After suffering their first loss of the season against Dallas, they get five consecutive games against teams currently with one victory each. That’s a soft schedule and a way to get back on track.

ESPN: No. 12 (was 12)

Biggest surprise: QB Sam Darnold

Why it’s a surprise: If anyone said they predicted before the season that Darnold would lead the NFL in rushing touchdowns (five) through four weeks, they would have been lying. Darnold had only five rushing touchdowns in three seasons with the Jets. He wasn’t considered a running threat. But teams are leaving lanes open, and Darnold is taking advantage. These aren’t quarterback sneaks. These are read-options or QB draw-type plays (credit OC Joe Brady) that Carolina was used to seeing Cam Newton run. — David Newton

Sporting News: No. 15 (was 16)

The Panthers put up a valiant effort with Sam Darnold and D.J. Moore at Dallas, but their defense had a big reality check against the dominant Cowboys offense. Darnold is running well, but questions about his passing linger.

Pro Football Network: No. 17 (was 15)

Last week I called the Panthers a paper tiger, and they proved it this week when they finally faced proper competition. They’re a young team that still needs to grow.

The Cowboys admittedly sat Randy Gregory and Trevon Diggs late, but the Panthers showed a lot of fight to make the final score look more respectable. Carolina looks good, but they are still most likely a year away from legitimately competing. They need help on the offensive line, and they need Jaycee Horn to return healthy in 2022.

Nevertheless, Joe Brady has created an offense that can move the ball while Phil Snow’s defense is creative and fast.

Yahoo! Sports: No. 15 (was 14)

The Panthers didn’t have Christian McCaffrey and still competed with a good Cowboys team until Trevon Diggs picked off passes on consecutive possessions. The Panthers were never going to be a great team this season, but they’re still on track to be very good. A Week 4 loss doesn’t change that.

New York Post: No. 14 (was 12)

Sports Illustrated: No. 15 (was 14)

DraftKings: No. 4 (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. Through three weeks, things are still moving a lot, but some teams are settling in up top and toward the bottom.

Czikk’s view: No. 17 (was 17)

The Panthers didn’t have Christian McCaffrey and lost a game to a good team. They’re still a good team. The loss didn’t change my opinion of them.