Teddy Bridgewater and Panthers surge into tie for first in NFC South

4:21 PM ET

Don’t look now, but the Carolina Panthers are tied for the NFC South lead.

It was practically impossible to see this coming after an 0-2 start, coupled with the loss of star running back Christian McCaffrey for four to six weeks with an ankle injury.

Many wrote the Panthers off before the season after they hired a first-year NFL head coach and completely overhauled the roster, dumping quarterback Cam Newton along the way. There seemed to be no way rookie coach Matt Rhule’s team could keep pace with Drew Brees and New Orleans or Tom Brady and Tampa Bay.

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But after Sunday’s 23-16 victory against the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Carolina has won three straight to force a tie with Tampa Bay.

A win by the Saints on Monday night would make it a three-way tie at 3-2.

The Panthers’ victories are coming for three reasons:

Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is playing lights-out, smart, mistake-free football, finding ways to get the ball into the

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