Power Rankings: No. 5 Carolina Panthers

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

Preseason: 23 | Last Week: 6 | ESPN.com Power Ranking since 2002

The Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints are on a collision path for a huge matchup on Dec. 8 at the Superdome.

The Panthers (7-3) climbed a spot to fifth in ESPN.com's Power Rankings with Monday night's 24-20 victory over the New England Patriots. The Saints (8-2) are ranked fourth after Sunday's victory over San Francisco.

If both win their next two games, the showdown in New Orleans would be for the NFC South lead. It still could be even if the Saints lose a game between now and then.

The Panthers on paper have the easier path to stay on their winning streak that has now reached six straight. They have a road game at Miami (5-5) on Sunday and a home game against Tampa Bay (2-8) the following week.

New Orleans has road games against Atlanta (2-8) this weekend and Seattle (10-1), arguably the best team in the NFC, the next.

If both teams continue to win, their Week 14 matchup is a prime candidate to be moved from 1 p.m. ET to NBC's prime-time Sunday night game as a part of the NFL's flex scheduling.

The current prime-time game is Atlanta at Green Bay. Seattle at San Francisco also would be a candidate, but Fox likely will protect that one for its 4:25 p.m. ET slot. Indianapolis at Cincinnati also is a possibility.

Either way, Carolina at New Orleans is shaping up to be big.