If you’re a squeamish or easily-offended Carolina Panthers fan, you might want to look away.
On Wednesday, ESPN released its latest NFL power rankings. And the defending NFC champions that went 15-1 this past season came in at No. 5. Yup, No. 5.
Carolina, who took the No. 2 spot just a few months back following the 2016 draft, currently sit behind the Seattle Seahawks, Arizona Cardinals, New England Patriots and Green Bay Packers. ESPN explains, sort of:
“The Panthers have a tough act to follow, after they won 15 games last season, but no team in NFL history has ever followed a 15-win season with anything less than a 10-win season.”
Hmmm. Well, that actually didn’t explain much as to why that dominant of a team moved down three whole spots following just one preseason game. In fact, the Panthers played played three of the four teams ahead of them in the rankings last year and, you guessed it, beat them. Head coach Ron Rivera and crew were a combined 4-0 against Seattle, Arizona and Green Bay in 2015, including two postseason victories over the pair of NFC West squads en route to Super Bowl 50.
Also receiving the shaft from the worldwide leader is the team that one-upped these cats in that Super Bowl, the Denver Broncos. Denver came in at No. 8, behind the likes of Pittsburgh and Cincinnati–two teams that fell short in the very same AFC postseason the Broncos finished atop of.
But either way, power rankings are power rankings. And if you didn’t catch on to the theme for the 2015 Panthers, they made their living off proving doubters wrong. Looks like they may have to abide by that creed again.