Panthers shoot up 9 spots in USA TODAY’s Week 2 power rankings

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A season-opening win last week jumped the Carolina Panthers from the No. 23 spot in USA TODAY’s power rankings to . . . well, they didn’t jump at all, actually. Staving off the lowly New York Jets by five points, to be fair, isn’t really much of a needle-moving victory.

Well, how about now?

Carolina’s dominant 26-7 win over the defending NFC South champion New Orleans Saints (very much a needle-mover, apparently) has them soaring nine spots up the rankings following Week 2 action. NFL reporter Nate Davis, who now has the Panthers at No. 14, notes this is the first time in a long time that quarterback Sam Darnold has a team off to this kind of start.

“Hey, Sam Darnold, how does it feel to be 2-0 for the first time since you were at USC? Backed by the league’s top-ranked defense and going into Houston, good bet 3-0 is just around the corner.”

That little run at USC came in 2017, Darnold’s final year at the college level. He led the Trojans to triumphs over the Western Michigan Broncos and Stanford Cardinal to the combined tune of 91 to 55.

Darnold hasn’t had to put as up many points to get to 2-0 this year, as that Panthers defense has allowed the fewest points and yards in the league, while registering the most sacks, to kickoff the 2021 campaign.

Hmmm . . . how far would a win over the Houston Texans get them next Tuesday morning?

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