Panthers in the Power Rankings: Week 3

James Bradberry power rankings graphic

Here's where the Panthers stand in various power rankings heading into their bye week after a 31-21 victory against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Panthers rank: 5th (3rd in NFC)
Previous rank: 10th

NFC South: Panthers 5th, Saints 6th, Buccaneers 8th, Falcons 14th

Beyond the numbers: Elliot Harrison sees a lot of good things out of the Panthers through the first three games, citing the team's control vs. Dallas, a narrow loss vs. Atlanta and a dominant run game vs. the Bengals. He feels that they're finding their feet while the majority of the league is still trying to find theirs. Harrison also shoots down critics who believed that dynamic running back Christian McCaffrey couldn't be a No. 1 option at his position, saying, "All those who thought Christian McCaffrey couldn't be a lead back: How does 28 carries for 184 yards sound?"

Panthers rank: 5th (3rd in NFC)
Previous rank: 13th

NFC South: Panthers 5th, Saints 12th, Buccaneers 16th, Falcons 19th

Beyond the numbers: Frank Schwab expressed both excitement and concern when discussing McCaffrey's performance in the Week 3 win. "Let’s just appreciate how good McCaffrey is, and worry about him holding up with that type of usage another day," Schwab wrote. Through three weeks, McCaffrey ranks third in total rushing yards (271), touches (68) and all purpose yards (428), and eighth in receptions (22). Something also worth noting: McCaffrey has yet to reach the end zone in 2018 but his efficiency has made him useful as a decoy to set up scoring opportunities.

Panthers rank: 9th (5th in NFC)
Previous rank: 13th

NFC South: Saints 8th, Panthers 9th, Buccaneers 13th, Falcons 19th

Beyond the numbers: Pete Prisco called the win against Cincinnati "impressive" as they head into their short break. Against a defense that had allowed the third fewest rushing yards, the Panthers ran for a season-high 230 yards and, thanks to quarterback Cam Newton, two rushing touchdowns. Carolina currently leads the league in total rushing yards (498) and are tied for the fourth-most rushing TDs (4).

Panthers rank: 9th (5th in NFC)
Previous rank: 11th

NFC South: Saints 4th, Panthers 9th, Buccaneers 12th, Falcons 14th

Beyond the numbers: The B/R NFL staff waxed poetic about Carolina's showing in Week 3. "When the Carolina Panthers play their brand of football, they can be a tough team to beat," they wrote. "In Week 3 against the Cincinnati Bengals, Carolina was all about Panthers football." A solid defensive effort that forced quarterback Andy Dalton to throw four interceptions served as a big catalyst for a big win.

After an overtime thriller between the Saints and Falcons that saw quarterback Drew Brees - doing his best Newton impression - scramble to the end zone to win it for New Orleans 43-37, the staff expects another round of fireworks in the NFC South as the season wears on.

"What a division race that's shaping up to be."

Panthers rank: 11th (6th in NFC)
Previous rank: 14th

NFC South: Saints 5th, Panthers 11th, Falcons 12th, Buccaneers 13th

Beyond the numbers: The defense's red zone struggles stand out most for the ESPN Staff. Despite being ranked eighth in the percentage of drives with a TD or field goal allowed, all seven opposing red zone drives have ended with a touchdown, making the Panthers the only team with that distinction. Of those seven, four have been rushing TDs, which will only add more stock to head coach Ron Rivera and defensive coordinator Eric Washington's goal of improving the run defense moving forward.

View the favorite photos of action and moments from Panthers vs. Bengals by team photographer Melissa Melvin-Rodriguez and second shooter Jacob Kupferman.

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