Carolina Panthers on the up in Week 17 power rankings

(Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports) Teddy Bridgewater
(Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports) Teddy Bridgewater /

5-10. 87. 15. FOX. 4.25 PM ET. 11-4. Sunday, Jan 3. Saints -6.5

Where do the Carolina Panthers sit in the power rankings ahead of Week 17?

It might not have been the easiest victoiry to stomach for the loyal fanbase of the Carolina Panthers. But the notion that this young and improving roster was going to lie down and not show the fighting qualities we’ve seen throughout the campaign was unrealistic, to put it mildly.

Their impressive Week 16 win at the Washington Football Team was built on another solid defensive display that is sure to stand them in good stead with some additional reinforcements during the offseason. The Carolina Panthers should have a new general manager sooner rather than later, so expect to see plenty of personnel changes as owner David Tepper looks to generate a more analytical approach to recruitment in the coming months.

Yes, the Panthers blew their chance at the No. 3 overall pick.

However, one could argue that the coaching staff’s desire to build a winning culture across the organization at a crucial time of their development is even more important than an exciting college prospect who may or may not work out.

Let’s take a look at where the Panthers ended up in the national power rankings ahead of their Week 17 game against the New Orleans Saints.

Carolina Panthers in the Week 17 power rankings.

The power rankings saw the Panthers move up five places to No. 22 following their fifth win of the campaign. They factored in not having Christian McCaffrey for all but three games as a reason why their 5-10 record doesn’t actually look that bad. But did highlight that Sunday’s season finale against the Saints is an important one for their struggling quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater.

"“The veteran passer has experienced an up-and-down first season in Charlotte, but a strong finale against New Orleans’ high-ranked defense would give the Carolina brain trust something to think about in the offseason.”"

ESPN moved Carolina to No. 24 on their list – a rise of four spots – with beat writer David Newton claiming their New Year’s resolution should be winning close games. This is something that’s really hampered the team in the first year of Matt Rhule’s reign, with Bridgewater going 0-8 on game-winning or tying drives throughout the campaign.

Rhule received praise from CBS Sports after a tough win on the road in Week 16, with writer Pete Prisco stating that the former Baylor man is “showing well with an undermanned team” after moving them up five positions to No. 23.

This sentiment is echoed by Pro Football Talk, who also said that the Panthers are doing far better than anyone expected after a four-spot surge to No. 26, with The Bleacher Report also looking favorably on Carolina’s win at FedEx Field to move them into No. 19 – a leap of four places.

Completing our national power rankings round-up is the NBC Sports list, which was the biggest rise of the week after they were shifted seven positions to No. 22.

"“It’s been a better year for Matt Rhule and the Panthers than most realize. They’ve put down a good foundation and will have Christian McCaffrey back next year. Now they need to find a long-term solution at quarterback.”"

It’s clear that there is still a lot of work to do in Carolina. However, with a new general manager coming in and some exciting young pieces to build around in the coming years, becoming a postseason contender might not be as far off as some people think.