Panthers in the power rankings before Week 1

NFC South: Saints 4th, Buccaneers 13th, Falcons 18th

ANALYSIS: "Christian McCaffrey was the ultimate workhorse for the Panthers last season, and don't expect that to change under a new coaching staff. McCaffrey averaged more than 25 touches per game during his 1,000/1,000 season in 2019, and Matt Rhule doesn't see any reason to curb that usage. 'I think that's the right number,' the coach said.

"McCaffrey had an astounding 116 receptions last year, breaking his own NFL record for catches by a running back set the previous year. We wonder if he sniffs that territory again with Teddy Bridgewater spreading the ball around to Robby Anderson, Curtis Samuel and DJ Moore in 2020."

NFC South: Saints 4th, Buccaneers 8th, Falcons 18th

ANALYSIS: "Narrowing it down to one big question is hard with a completely overhauled roster and new staff with little NFL experience. But let's go secondary. The defensive front looks solid, but the secondary will have a lot of youth and inexperience. There's a good chance two rookies will start in Jeremy Chinn (big nickel) and Troy Pride Jr. (corner). Strong safety Juston Burris has only nine career starts. The offense has the potential to be potent, so how well this group and defense jells is key."

NFC South: Saints 3rd, Buccaneers 9th, Falcons 13th

ANALYSIS: "They will be fun to watch on offense with Joe Brady running things. But the defense will have issues with a ton of youth. They will play a lot of high-scoring games."

NFC South: Saints 3rd, Buccaneers 11th, Falcons 14th

ANALYSIS: "The 2020 season is the beginning of a full-on restart for the Panthers. Long-time head coach Ron Rivera is gone, replaced by Matt Rhule. The MVP of that 2015 season, quarterback Cam Newton, is gone, replaced by free-agent signee Teddy Bridgewater. Former Defensive Player of the Year Luke Kuechly is gone, replaced by journeyman Tahir Whitehead.

"The Panthers aren't completely bereft of talent. Christian McCaffrey might be the best running back in the league. Wide receiver DJ Moore broke out with over 1,100 receiving yards in 2019. Edge-rusher Brian Burns showed flashes of being an impact player as a rookie."

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