Panthers Move On from Ron Rivera

Kate Magdziuk
Rotoworld

Panthers head coach Ron Rivera was fired Tuesday in a move that shook the NFL. Rivera has been with the team as head coach since 2011. Since being hired, he's managed a record of 76-63-1 - a win percentage of .546. He also amassed four playoff appearances - one of which brought them to Super Bowl 50.

The move was made Tuesday following their fourth-straight loss to the Washington Redskins. It's an interesting move for the organization, which has not played with a healthy Cam Newton since late 2018. Sophomore quarterback Kyle Allen has had 10 interceptions and six lost fumbles since taking over as the Panthers' starter in Week 3. Owner David Tepper stated that it was his desire to initiate the search for their future head coach now that prompted the move now, rather than at the season's completion. With this move comes a change of guard, as secondary coach Perry Fewell takes over as interim head coach, offensive coordinator Norv Turner will serve as the special assistant to the head coach, and quarterbacks coach Scott Turner takes over at offensive coordinator.

The biggest concern for fantasy owners with this move would seem to be Christian McCaffrey. Is it possible we see a shift in the workload for the RB1 on the season? McCaffrey currently leads the league in touches (310), all-purpose yards (1,811) and total touchdowns (16). He's hardly come off the field, for that matter, having played 100% of offensive snaps in five games so far this season. Though McCaffrey has also been incredibly efficient with such high volume at 5.0 yards per carry and a career-high 8.6 yards per reception, a hit to his volume would be a major blow for fantasy owners heading into playoff weeks.

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Barring any change at the quarterback position, we can likely expect much of the same in terms of production from the team's young wide receiver corps, starring sophomore D.J. Moore. Moore currently leads the team and ranks fourth in the NFL in receiving yards at 980. Third-year wideout Curtis Samuel, who was the subject of much preseason hype, sits behind him at 532 receiving yards and five touchdowns. There's certainly a bright future for this core group.

During his presser, Tepper commented, "Without shaking the tree, you can't get any apples." Could more changes be in store for the Panthers? There's been much speculation about whether we will see Cam Newton return to the Panthers in 2020, too. 

Newton's contract makes him a free agent in 2021, however, team has a potential out in 2020. They would be on the hook for just $2 million in dead cap if they moved. Newton turns 31 in May and has historically battled shoulder injuries prior to this season's Lisfranc injury that sent him to the injured reserve. Newton was the league's MVP and Offensive Player of the Year in 2015, but it remains to be seen just how much Tepper would like to shake things up within the organization. Arguably, the Panthers have now lost two seasons on the coattails of an injury to their franchise quarterback with a loaded incoming quarterback class in 2020.

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Daily Slants

Dolphins RB Kalen Ballage was placed on injured reserve Tuesday with a leg injury. Despite leading the team in carries, he's not even the Dolphins' leading rusher. In a likely corresponding move, the Dolphins claimed RB Zach Zenner on waivers. Since being released by the Lions, Zenner has played for the Saints, Cardinals and now Dolphins. It's best for all fantasy owners to avoid this backfield, as they've managed the worst yards per carry as a team in the NFL at 3.1 behind a putrid offensive line. ... Steelers RB James Conner is questionable for Week 14, per Mike Tomlin. He hasn't seen the field since Week 11 after aggravating a shoulder injury versus Cleveland. Should he remain out, fourth-round rookie Benny Snell would likely continue to carry the load. He and sophomore Jaylen Samuels are worth owning in all formats heading into the fantasy playoffs. ... The Chiefs signed an old favorite today, RB Spencer Ware, bringing him back to the roster for the fourth straight year. They could use some help at the position with a banged-up Damien Williams and Darrel Williams leaving Sunday's game with a non-contact injury. The rotation of running backs in Kansas City is enough to make anyone's head spin, making the fantasy value of all of them a question mark. ... After leaving Monday's game with an aggravated clavicle injury, Dalvin Cook says he will be good to go for Week 14. It's good news for fantasy owners lucky enough to own the RB2, but has made it all the more clear that Alexander Mattison is a must-own in every format. He is arguably one of the most valuable handcuffs in fantasy football with a rush-friendly schedule in the playoffs. The Vikings rank sixth in total rushing attempts in 2019. ... Peyton Barber had himself a day Sunday... and now we know why. Per head coach Bruce Arians, former second-round rookie Ronald Jones missed a blitz pick up that left him on the bench. It's an ominous sign for the running back, who was trending up after a dreadful rookie season where he totaled just 44 yards on 23 carries. It will be difficult and risky to trust his usage in the fantasy playoffs, despite plus matchups against the Lions and Texans Weeks 15-16. ... After being activated from the injured reserve, coach Zac Taylor confirmed John Ross would have a role in Sunday's game against the Browns. He's an intriguing add in redraft leagues with Andy Dalton back under center and a Week 16 matchup against Miami. ... Steelers coach Mike Tomlin commented that WR JuJu Smith-Schuster is questionable for Week 14, but that he has a worse shot at practicing mid-week than RB James Conner. The third-year wideout left Week 11 with a concussion but was later found to have sustained a knee injury on the same play. It's tough going for fantasy owners, but it may be time to drop their first or second-round pick, given the instability of Juju's production prior to the injury. 

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