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Panthers drop from no. 1 in ESPN NFL Power Rankings

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) sits on the bench in the closing seconds of the second half of an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2015 (David Goldman)

The Panthers' winning streak is over. So is their four-week run at No. 1.

The Cardinals, winners of nine straight, including a dismantling of the Packers in Week 16, have ascended to our top spot for the first time ever in these Power Rankings. Carolina is now No. 2, followed by New England and Denver, which returned to the top five after beating Cincinnati on Monday night.

The Jets' big win over the Patriots was good for a five-spot rise to No. 5, a season-best mark. The week's most notable fall belongs to the Steelers, who dropped five spots to No. 9 after losing to the Ravens.

A victory in Week 17 will almost guarantee Arizona the Power Rankings "title" for 2015. (Next week's edition is the last of the season.) But it won't be easy, as Carson Palmer & Co. host rival Seattle, which is smarting from an upset loss to St. Louis.

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