A weekly examination of the Panthers’ ESPN.com Power Ranking:
Preseason: 23rd | Last Week: 24th | ESPN.com Power Ranking since 2002
Ron Rivera was asked on Monday what it means for the Carolina Panthers to have a chance to improve their record to above .500 for the first time since 2008 on Thursday night at Tampa Bay.
"That's huge," Carolina's third-year coach said. "Because we're relevant."
The Panthers (3-3) also are becoming relevant in ESPN's rankings, improving six spots to a season-high 18th. They have won their last two games and three of their last four for their best start under Rivera, whose past two teams opened 1-5.
Here are a few NFL rankings that make the Panthers relevant:
Third in total defense -- fourth against the run and fifth against the pass.
Tied for sixth in takeaway-giveaway ratio at plus-5.
Second in points per game allowed (13.8).
Seventh in run offense.
Quarterback Cam Newton ranks 10th in the league in passer rating at 95.0.
Newton ranks second in the NFL in third-down rating behind Peyton Manning at 114.3.
There are more, but you get the point.
And if Carolina gets to 4-3, it will become more relevant.
"We're a young team that has gotten to the point now where we're doing the things we're capable of doing," Rivera said. "It's a great opportunity for us, this team, this city to make a mark. We have to go out and do that."