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Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Power Rankings: No. 6 Carolina Panthers

By David Newton

A weekly examination of the Panthers' ESPN.com Power Ranking:

Preseason: 23 | Last Week: 3 | ESPN.com Power Ranking since 2002

No time to panic. Not the end of the world. The sky isn't falling.

The Carolina Panthers pulled out all the clichés after their eight-game winning streak ended with a 31-13 loss to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday night.

But if you look at the big picture, a 9-4 record and No. 6 ranking in ESPN.com's latest Power Rankings isn't so bad for a team that hasn't been to the playoffs or had a winning record since 2008.

That the voters didn't drop Carolina more than three spots in the rankings shows a respect for what was accomplished during their winning streak that included victories over No. 4 New England and No. 6 San Francisco.

The Panthers easily could have been placed behind the Chiefs at No. 7 and Cincinnati at No. 8.

The loss stung. It was humbling and embarrassing for the players and coaches the way it happened in a prime-time telecast.

But as coach Ron Rivera reminded, Seattle lost a week after looking unbeatable in a 34-7 victory over the Saints.

The Panthers remain solidly in position for a wild card if they win two of their last three. One more win possibly could do it. There's still an outside shot at the NFC South title if the Saints stumble on the road the next two weeks, including a rematch with Carolina in Charlotte on Dec. 22.

At least players aren't pulling out the cliché they could have used at any point over the past four seasons.

Wait till next year.