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The Panthers are benefiting from an easy early-season schedule, but will it last?

Houston, Texas, USA; Carolina Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold (14) calls a play at the line of scrimmage during the first quarter against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Carolina Panthers are one of the NFL’s best early-season surprises, starting off 3-0 and finding themselves entrenched at the top of the NFC. This is a team that slotted in at 25th in PFF’s power rankings tool heading into the season but has jumped up to 16th following the first three games.

The Panthers sport the best defense in the league in terms of expected points added (EPA) per play through Week 3, and newly quarterback Sam Darnold hasn’t looked like the disaster we saw in New York.

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Carolina is the beneficiary of one of the easiest schedules to begin the season, which could potentially see the team start off with a record that may not be an indication of true strength. Here are the Panthers' next five games and their ranks in PFF's power rankings tool.

Week Team Power Ranking
4 Cowboys 18
5 Eagles 27
6 Vikings 23
7 Giants 28
8 Falcons 26

Carolina is set to face five straight teams ranked in the bottom half of the league. Additionally, the Panthers' matchup in Week 9 comes against the New England Patriots, who rank No. 15 — one spot ahead of Carolina. Also, the Cowboys and Eagles are both dealing with injuries/suspensions to major contributors, including Demarcus Lawrence, La’el Collins, Michael Gallup, Brandon Brooks, Brandon Graham and Jordan Mailata

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