ANALYSIS: "The Panthers have something in the pairing of Teddy Bridgewater and 31-year-old offensive coordinator Joe Brady. Carolina appeared to be in major trouble when Christian McCaffrey went down with an ankle injury in Week 2, but the offense has put up points with ease in two straight wins since the All-Pro running back was moved to IR. Bridgewater is thriving, and his 18-yard touchdown scramble -- his first scoring run since his horrific knee injury in the summer of '16 -- told the story of a player who's made it all the way back. The defense also deserves credit: After managing a league-low nine QB pressures in the first two weeks, per Next Gen Stats, the pass rush has come to life behind Brian Burns and Yetur Gross-Matos. The Panthers are certified frisky."
ANALYSIS: "Two wins in a row give the Panthers optimism toward sliding into the final playoff spot. And that's possible in what appears to be a down year for the NFC. They have been in every game and shown improvement each week, which also is a good sign. The next four games against Atlanta, Chicago, New Orleans and the Falcons again will be key because it gets tougher after that; Carolina needs to go 2-2, at worst, and more likely 3-1 to have a chance to be relevant down the stretch. This is a young team with talent that should be playing its best during the second half of the season."
ANALYSIS: "They are one of the early surprises of the season. At 2-2, Matt Rhule has this team playing good football with two straight victories."
ANALYSIS: "Break up the Panthers!
After dropping their first two games of the season, the Carolina Panthers now have their first winning streak of Matt Rhule's tenure as head coach and their most convincing win of the season after handling the Arizona Cardinals at Bank of America Stadium.
Rhule was careful to downplay the significance of the Panthers' ending the first quarter of the season at .500.
"If this is the high point of the season, then we won't have a very good season," Rhule told reporters. "I will say this: The coaches aren't any different. I just think the players getting more and more comfortable with what we do and how we do it. And then more and more making it how they do it. And that, to me, is the mark of a winner."
Still, this was an impressive win from a Panthers team without its best offensive player in Christian McCaffrey. Teddy Bridgewater threw for 276 yards and two scores and ran for another. Reserve running back Mike Davis topped 110 total yards and found the end zone. And the Panthers defense held the Cardinals to 262 total yards.
These Panthers are better than many folks (including us) gave them credit for.
And they earned their bump in these rankings.
View the best photos from behind the scenes of Carolina's 31-21 win over Arizona on Sunday.