Panthers surging up national NFL power rankings ahead of Week 9
The Carolina Panthers are surging back up the national NFL power rankings ahead of their crucial Week 9 game against the New England Patriots.
It’s a big moment in the 2021 season for the Carolina Panthers. Their win at the Atlanta Falcons in Week 8 ended a concerning losing streak that threatened to throw the team’s good work earlier in the campaign out of the window, but there is a lot of football still to play and something Matt Rhule must build on in the coming contests.
Rhule will get a tremendous test of his coaching credentials this weekend when the Panthers host the New England Patriots, who also sit at 4-4 and are led by arguably the greatest strategist of all time in Bill Belichick.
Not only this, but Carolina could also be without the services of quarterback Sam Darnold due to a concussion, with Christian McCaffrey also highly doubtful to play despite returning to practice.
It’s going to be interesting to see how Rhule conducts himself in the face of Belichick’s immense success and experience. His in-game adjustments have been criticized more often than not this season, so anything similar is going to be punished severely.
Ahead of the game, we took a look at where the Panthers stand in the national NFL power rankings following their Week 8 victory.
Carolina Panthers in the power rankings ahead of Week 9.
We begin with FanSided’s national NFL reporter Matt Verderame, who highlighted Carolina’s potential playoff chances after rising them three places to No. 19 in his standings.
"“With their first win in five weeks, the Panthers find themselves firmly in the playoff chase.”"
Dan Hanzus of NFL.com moved the Panthers up four spots to No. 21 in his weekly rankings. But added that Carolina’s complex situation regarding the status of McCaffrey could make or break their fortunes over the second half of the campaign.
"“The Panthers need McCaffrey to make a playoff run, but they also know one more setback could wipe out a second straight year of the 25-year-old’s prime. You can feel the tension of the situation from outer space.”"
ESPN.com centered their thoughts on pass protection being Carolina’s Achillies heel despite shifting them four places up to No. 20, with CBS Sports also raising the Panthers to No. 19 following their Week 8 success.
The Bleacher Report was less impressed with Carolina’s win, keeping them at No. 19 in their weekly list. Sports Illustrated promoted the Panthers six places to No. 18 and focused on All-Pro cornerback Stephon Gilmore’s eye-catching debut that also came with an interception.
Rounding off our weekly round-up is Mike Florio from Pro Football Talk, who stood firm with Carolina at No. 18 but offered caused for encouragement with the impending return of McCaffrey into the lineup.
"“They can be dangerous, if/when Christian McCaffrey returns.”"
Sunday’s win at the Falcons was a step in the right direction. But no more than that.
This is a week-to-week business and the Panthers must start stringing a consistent run of good results together before the bye. Otherwise, their hopes of playoff football will evaporate quickly.