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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 8 roundup for the Panthers in our consensus 2021 NFL Power Rankings.

ESPN -- Rank: 24

Prediction we missed: The offensive line.

I really was optimistic that Cameron Erving was the answer at left tackle, and that the Panthers had upgraded enough across the board to handle a few injuries on the line. Wrong, wrong, wrong. The line has been a mess, giving up 21 sacks over the past five games (4.2 average). Compare that with Sam Darnold's three years with the Jets, when the line that gave up 2.5 sacks a game was called a mess. -- David Newton

NFL.com -- Rank: 25

The Panthers will stick with Sam Darnold for now, because Sam Darnold's backup is P.J. Walker, and P.J. Walker isn't playing at Temple anymore. Matt Rhule has boxed himself into a corner: It's becoming apparent he's whiffed on his hand-picked starting QB for the second straight year, and the coach has no escape hatch ... for now, anyway. After Sunday's ugly 25-3 loss to the Giants, reports surfaced that the Panthers are "evaluating their pursuit of a franchise quarterback," and Carolina is expected to be involved in trade discussions for Deshaun Watson. The legal entanglements of Watson will likely keep him out of action no matter where he's employed at the Nov. 2 trade deadline, but Carolina looks ready to make a major push for another hard-reset QB.

CBS Sports -- Rank: 21

Sam Darnold is having big-time issues after his fast start. They can't protect him either, which doesn't help.

USA Today -- Rank: 27

They've devolved from losing to being non-competitive Sunday against Giants. Crucial five weeks ahead with Arizona the only squad Carolina will face that's currently above .500.

The Athletic -- Rank: 20

Trick or treat: The real Sam Darnold has revealed himself, and the guy we saw during the Panthers' hot start in September was just a disguise. Darnold has eight turnovers during Carolina's three-game losing streak (seven interceptions and a lost fumble), culminating in his benching during a blowout loss to the Giants. While Darnold will remain the Panthers' starter for now, it's clear Carolina has lost confidence in its quarterback.

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