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Panthers in the power rankings before Week 6

NFC South: Saints 10th, Buccaneers 12th, Falcons 29th

ANALYSIS: "The Panthers are 3-0 without Christian McCaffrey, and the star running back's understudy has a lot to do with it. Mike Davis continued his inspired play on Sunday against the Falcons, reaching career highs in touches (25) and scrimmage yards (149) while scoring a touchdown in his third consecutive game. McCaffrey's in zero danger of losing his role once healthy enough to return, but head coach Matt Rhule now has a proven alternative if he wants to avoid CMC's extreme usage levels of recent seasons. Robby Anderson was another star against the Falcons. The ex-Jet has started his Panthers career with at least 99 yards receiving in four of five games, and his 36 catches are the most through five games in Panthers history. A major free-agent hit."

NFC South: Saints 9th, Buccaneers 12th, Falcons 30th

ANALYSIS: "For all the concerns about a young secondary coming into the season, the run defense has been the biggest weakness. The Panthers are giving up 135 yards per game to rank among the bottom half of the NFL. Improving that stat was an emphasis for the new staff after last year's unit allowed a whopping 143.5 yards rushing per game. That was another reason for drafting run-stopper Derrick Brown in the first round. The Panthers rank as one of the worst teams in the NFL in yards after initial contact. And they have given up eight rushing touchdowns, the most through five games in franchise history."

NFC South: Buccaneers 11th, Saints 12th, Falcons 28th

ANALYSIS: "It's time to take notice of the Panthers. Teddy Bridgewater is playing well and the young defense is improving."

Pro Football Talk
NFC South: Saints 10th, Buccaneers 15th, Falcons 30th

ANALYSIS: "Who needs Christian McCaffrey? (Actually, pretty much every team. But the Panthers somehow are 3-0 without him.)"

NFC South: Saints 10th, Buccaneers 13th, Falcons 30th

ANALYSIS: "Something unexpected is happening in Carolina: The Panthers just might be good.

After downing the winless Falcons in Atlanta on Sunday, the Panthers are tied for first place in the NFC South. They have peeled off three consecutive victories without the presence of their best offensive player, running back Christian McCaffrey.

Reserve running back Mike Davis has been a godsend for Carolina, and he had another huge game against Atlanta, piling up 149 total yards and a score on 25 touches. Wide receiver Robby Anderson has emerged as Teddy Bridgewater's go-to target in the passing game, hauling in eight catches for 112 yards. And Bridgewater was sharp again in Week 5, topping 300 passing yards with two scores and no interceptions.

If there's a caveat with Carolina's win streak, it's that it has come against teams with a combined record of 4-11. The next few weeks will give us a much better idea of just how good these Panthers really are.

Starting with a home date against the Chicago Bears next week, the Panthers will play three of four against teams with a winning record, including trips to New Orleans and Kansas City.

"There's a glass-half-empty way to view Carolina's three-game winning streak sans McCaffrey, and it's all about the money they spent on Run CMC," Gagnon said. "But here's another way to look at it: Imagine McCaffrey and Mike Davis together in support of Teddy Bridgewater and DJ Moore in the Carolina offense? That could be downright dangerous. Do not rule out the Panthers."

View the best photos from behind the scenes at Mercedes-Benz Stadium for Carolina's 23-16 win over Atlanta.

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