Panthers achieve highest ranking in ESPN Power Rankings since 2006

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The undefeated Carolina Panthers haven’t been as high as their current ranking at No. 2 in ESPN’s Power Rankings since the first week of the 2006 season.

They lost the next week.

They peaked at No. 3 the final two weeks of the 2013 season when they went 12-4 before losing a divisional playoff game to San Francisco after a first-round bye.

The Panthers (9-0) and top-ranked New England Patriots (9-0) are the only undefeated teams in the NFL after Cincinnati lost on Monday night.

Carolina will attempt to get to 10-0 on Sunday with a home game against the Washington Redskins (4-5).

Of the 15 teams that have gotten to 10-0, all made the playoffs and nine reached the Super Bowl.

Six won the Super Bowl.

The NFC road to the Super Bowl currently would go through Charlotte. The Panthers have a two-game lead in the conference over Minnesota (7-2) and Arizona (7-2) with seven games remaining.

They are three games clear of Atlanta (6-3) in the NFC South.

Coach Ron Rivera called the 9-0 record the “elephant" in the room after Sunday’s 27-10 victory at Tennessee, but he remains confident his team can remain focused on taking it one game at a time.

Rivera applauded players for coming to Bank of America Stadium on a Monday off day to study film. One of those was quarterback Cam Newton.

“It’s not about you having to do it, it’s you've got to be willing to do it," Rivera said. “And that’s what we have right now. We have a group of guys that are willing to do things."

That keeps Rivera losing sleep about players letting up because of their success.

“It’s one of the things we talked about going into last week that this could be a potential trap game," Rivera said. “Why? Because everybody's talking about you being favored.

“The truth of the matter is they don’t care what that means. They don't care what the spread is. Everybody just shows up and plays hard and I think that kept our guys focused."

Here’s a complete look at this week’s Power Rankings.