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Title track: 60
Fan relations: 42
Stadium experience: 63
Bang for the buck: 16
Change from last year: +2
If anything, the Panthers are consistent. Last year, they pulled a No. 26 overall ranking. This year? Close to it, but better, at No. 24. Despite a drop in bang for the buck from No. 4 to No. 16, Carolina still rates among the best in the NFL in that category. The team also does well in affordability, which comes in part because of the $4 sodas and $5 hot dogs you can enjoy at a game, as well as a reasonable average ticket price of $72.44.
The big draw for the Panthers is their lineup of marquee players (No. 35 rank): 2014 NFL Man of the Year Thomas Davis, 2013 NFL Defensive Player of the Year Luke Kuechly and two-time Pro Bowl quarterback Cam Newton. Expectations for a third straight NFC South title also are high despite a 7-8-1 record last year -- the team finished strong to win the division and then beat Arizona in a wild-card game.
The two things that dragged the Panthers down in the overall rankings are puzzling. One is the stadium experience, rated No. 63. This was an improvement of 15 spots from last season, but one would think the number would be even higher after ownership and the city of Charlotte spent $87.5 million in renovations, including new escalators and video boards. Renovations to the suites were completed during the offseason. As one NFL Nation beat writer asked during the preseason, "Why isn't Carolina hosting a Super Bowl with a stadium like this?'' Another puzzling negative? Carolina ranks 60th in title track, down three spots from last season, despite the NFC South title (a second straight) and the playoff win.
The biggest change for Carolina in this year's rankings is in the ownership category, up 28 spots, from No. 62 in 2014 to No. 34 this year. Perhaps the way team owner Jerry Richardson handled the Greg Hardy domestic violence situation is behind that. Richardson never considered re-signing the Pro Bowl player even after the charges against him were dropped because the accuser refused to cooperate with the district attorney's office. As the 79-year-old owner said at a league meeting when asked why he didn't bring back an integral part of a 2013 defense that ranked No. 2 in the NFL, "We do the right things." Perhaps that scored him points.