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2021 NFL Power Rankings: Carolina Panthers

Throughout the 2021 NFL season, we will compile a consensus NFL Power Rankings that averages the rankings of all 32 NFL teams.

Here is where the Carolina Panthers rank in terms of average, best and worst:

Below you will find a Week 14 roundup for the Panthers in our consensus 2021 NFL Power Rankings.

ESPN -- Rank: 26

Player who must step up: QB Cam Newton

After a storybook beginning to his return to the Panthers, Newton fell flat with arguably the worst performance of his NFL career before the bye. The 32-year-old signal-caller is fighting to prove he deserves a job next season with the Panthers or another team. Do well over the final five games and Carolina could bring him back as the starter. Do poorly and it's hard to imagine any team giving him a chance. That Newton is still learning the system and that the Panthers fired offensive coordinator Joe Brady during the bye complicate the situation. Consistency will be key. -- David Newton

NFL.com -- Rank: 25

The Panthers have a Christian McCaffrey conundrum. When this season comes to a conclusion, McCaffrey will have missed 23 of 33 games since signing the contract extension that made him the highest-paid running back in NFL history. Unfortunately for his brethren, McCaffrey has become the latest example of why teams paying running backs big money is bad business. McCaffrey will be back next season, but Matt Rhule and the braintrust (minus Joe Brady) will likely use the rest of the season as a barometer in deciding whether Chuba Hubbard is a worthy backup. If you're going to walk the CMC tightrope, you had better have a strong safety net.

CBS Sports -- Rank: 24

They come off their bye with a new play-caller after they fired offensive coordinator Joe Brady. Will it matter?

USA Today -- Rank: 25

The last time QB Cam Newton won a start for Carolina? Try Nov. 4, 2018. Maybe that changes soon under new offensive play caller Jeff Nixon.

The Athletic -- Rank: 26

Best-case scenario: If it's possible to lose on a bye week, the Panthers accomplished it. Season-ending injuries to RB Christian McCaffrey and CB Donte Jackson were followed by the firing of offensive coordinator Joe Brady (although many Panthers fans would call that a win). All of which should put the Panthers in let's-see-what-the-young-guys-can-do mode, beginning with former BYU offensive tackle Brady Christensen. While the QB question looms over the franchise, Matt Rhule also has to fix the offensive line. Rhule needs to see if rookies Christensen and Deonte Brown are capable of being dependable starters, though it might make for some collapsing pockets on Cam Newton.

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