The Carolina Panthers still have the NFL's best record, but the Arizona Cardinals are the league's best team.
That's according to ESPN's weekly power rankings updated Tuesday. The Cards' nine straight victories, combined with the Panthers' first loss of the season on Sunday, was enough for ESPN to move Arizona from second to first in its rankings, and bump Carolina down to No. 2.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) December 29, 2015
"The Cardinals have won nine straight games for only the second time in franchise history," ESPN noted. "The last time they did that was across the 1948-49 seasons (11 straight)."
Yes, these power rankings are arbitrary and have no influence on the NFL playoffs. Nonetheless, the Cards' top ranking is an unprecedented display of respect from The Worldwide Leader in Sports, as Tuesday marked the first time ESPN has rated the Cardinals No. 1 since it began its weekly power rankings poll in 2002. The Cards were ranked No. 2 four times last season, as well as in each of the previous three weeks.
The Cardinals, who clinched a first-round playoff bye with its 38-8 win over the Packers on Sunday, were never ranked higher than seventh by ESPN during the 2008 season when they advanced to their first-ever Super Bowl.