They are legitimate Super Bowl contenders.
The Panthers have won three straight games to get to 6-2, one game behind the New Orleans Saints in the NFC South. The Chargers have won five straight games to get to 6-2 as well, one game behind the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC West.
The Chiefs and Saints have rightfully been getting a lot of notoriety so far this season, but the teams directly behind them in the standings should be as well. The Chargers are now fifth in my Power Rankings, while the Panthers are up to the seventh spot.
Each team has a quarterback playing at a high level in Philip Rivers for the Chargers and Cam Newton for the Panthers, and each has been their respective team's MVP and also potential league MVPs. That's how good they are playing.
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As the young players on each team improve by the week, these two could be making noise come playoff time, even in divisions that have teams who are getting all the attention.
They might not be the Saints and Chiefs just yet, but you can bet those teams can feel them right behind them.
|They earned this spot by beating three good teams in successive weeks, including the Rams last week. They are the team to beat in the NFC right now.||1||12-4-0|
|Ho-hum, it's November and the Patriots are getting better. Haven't we seen this script before?||1||7-9-0|
|The defense has suddenly become a major issue. It's time to they tighten up on that side of the ball.||2||10-6-0|
|They have to keep winning with the Chargers playing so well. The improved defense will decide how far they go.||--||14-2-0|
|They are on a roll right now and have a real chance to push the Chiefs in the division. Philip Rivers continues to play well.||--||7-9-0|
|After the slow start, they are playing well. The division is theirs to lose, but they have a tough one this week with Carolina on Thursday.||--||12-4-0|
|They have ripped off three consecutive victories to turn their season around. Are they ready to push the Saints in the division?||1||5-11-0|
|The defense is starting to play like expected. The 10 sacks against the Lions were impressive.||1||7-9-0|
|Six straight victories have put them atop the AFC South looking like a playoff team. They are playing well now.||4||4-12-0|
|They are atop the NFC North at the halfway point. Big props to coach Matt Nagy.||5||8-8-0|
|The injury to A.J. Green could impact their season in a big way. They have a big game this week with the Saints.||1||4-11-1|
|They come off their bye with a big division game with the Cowboys. They have the look of a team ready to make a big second-half push.||4||4-11-1|
|They are in a hole in the division race, trailing two teams. If they are to be a playoff team, they have to beat Miami this week.||2||13-3-0|
|At 4-4, they are playing great on offense. Matt Ryan has been sensational. They have a chance to be a playoff team.||3||4-12-0|
|The offensive line injuries might doom this team. They just aren't good enough up front anymore.||8||7-9-0|
|At 5-4, they are over. 500 and basically overachieving. We will know more about them after their game against the Packers.||4||10-6-0|
|They head to their bye on a three-game losing streak. Is John Harbaugh's job really in jeopardy?||7||11-5-0|
|The loss at home to the Chargers last week sets them back in their quest to be a wild-card team. And now they face a tough road game against the Rams.||4||12-4-0|
|That was an impressive performance by Marcus Mariota against the Cowboys. Now he has to string a few more in a row.||6||11-5-0|
|They come off their bye with a division home game against the Jaguars. It's crucial for both teams.||2||11-5-0|
|If they can't protect Matt Stafford - giving up 10 sacks to the Vikings last week - nothing else will matter. They have issues.||2||5-11-0|
|That was a bad home loss to the Titans. Now they have a must-win game against the Eagles on the road if they are to be a playoff team.||1||6-10-0|
|How long before coach Vance Joseph gets let go? Does he make it until the end of the season?||1||5-11-0|
|The defense has reverted back to being terrible after a brief improvement. That puts too much pressure on whoever plays quarterback.||1||11-5-0|
|They come off the bye with their season on the line against the Colts. A loss, and it's pretty much over.||1||1-15-0|
|Sam Darnold is going to have growing pains like he did in Miami with his four-interception game. It's part of the process.||--||2-14-0|
|The change in coaches didn't matter. They just don't have enough players yet. But they're getting there.||--||11-5-0|
|They come off their bye with a tough road game at Kansas City. The good news is Josh Rosen got it going in the last game.||1||8-8-0|
|Nick Mullens was impressive in his start last week, and it looks like he will get another. Can he continue the magic?||1||6-10-0|
|Their offense is terrible right now. Nathan Peterman should not be starting - anywhere.||2||13-3-0|
|This team is awful right now. Was Jon Gruden worth it? The answer right now is no.||--||8-8-0|
|How much longer can they go with Eli Manning? Is the change coming?||--||6-10-0|