CHARLOTTE - Follow five media outlets throughout the season as their writers update their NFL power rankings, presented by Daimler Trucks North America.
ANALYSIS: "Wins over the lowly Jets and a decimated Saints squad invite some doubts about the validity of their 2-0 start, but the Panthers certainly look like a team that has the ability to hang with the majority of the NFC. Sam Darnold has been efficient and mostly mistake-free behind a sturdy offensive line, while Christian McCaffrey has put the offense on his back in consecutive weeks. The defense has been the real revelation here; led by Shaq Thompson, Carolina continues to swarm the opposing quarterback and put offensive game plans in the blender. The schedule stays soft in Week 3: A Thursday night road trip to Houston to face third-string rookie QB Davis Mills. The Panthers have a chance to hit October with serious momentum."
ANALYSIS: "Fantasy surprise: QB Sam Darnold
You can't say Christian McCaffrey here because nothing he has done is a surprise. So, the nod goes to Darnold who, while not lighting it up, has shown the consistency the Panthers were hoping for when they traded for him. Darnold has three touchdown passes to only one interception, and he also has a rushing touchdown. Most impressive is that he has completed 68.5% of his passes, way up from the 59.8% he had in three years with the Jets."
ANALYSIS: "Matt Rhule has this young team playing good football. The defense has a chance to be special and can really impact a game."
ANALYSIS: "It appears we may have underestimated the Carolina Panthers.
After gutting out a win over the hapless New York Jets in Week 1, the Panthers faced what appeared a daunting task in Week 2: a matchup with a New Orleans Saints team that blew out the Green Bay Packers last week.
The Panthers then outplayed the Saints in every facet of the game during a blowout win of their own.
Quarterback Sam Darnold was sharp, throwing for 305 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Running back Christian McCaffrey played like Christian McCaffrey, tallying 137 total yards and a score. And the Carolina defense was stout, allowing only 128 yards of offense and forcing two turnovers.
"The Panthers have been one of the more surprising teams in the league so far this year," Davenport said. "But it could be a while before we really know how good they are. Their next eight games are all against teams that missed the postseason last year, and they don't face a team that finished .500 or better until they travel to Arizona on November 14."
"Situation matters," Sobleski said. "Darnold is finally being placed in a position to succeed, and the 2018 No. 3 overall pick is finally starting to realize his potential. In his first two games with the Panthers, Darnold has a higher competition percentage, average yards per attempt, QBR and quarterback rating than he ever did during his days with the New York Jets. More importantly, Carolina is 2-0. Maybe Darnold takes a step back over the next few weeks, but he'd still be playing better than he previously did."
ANALYSIS: "Should the Panthers be higher? Maybe. But I thought about the old tried-and-true "who would you pick to win on a neutral field?" method and I'm not ready to put them higher than this. That was obviously a very impressive performance against the Saints, but this is still a young team and I'm interested to see how it handles whatever speed bumps or growing pains pop up along the way."
Carolina is 3-2 all-time against the Texans.