Carolina Panthers Team Profile 2016 by Utter-Fantasy Writer & Illustrator Doug Bowles
Panther’s head coach Ron Rivers was named the AP Coach of the Year on Feb. 6th, 2016. Rivera has led Carolina to 3 straight season playoffs. Carolina started the season 14–0, and had their best regular season record going 15-1. Their only lost in 2015 came in Week 16, vs the Falcons in Atlanta. After their bye in the Wildcard Weekend, the Panthers defeated the Seahawks 31–24 in the Divisional round, avenging their elimination from a year earlier. The Panthers then blew out the Cardinals in the NFC Championship game by a score of 49–15, but lost to the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50 by a score of 24–10.
2016 Team Outlook- The Panthers share the NFC South division with the Saints, the Falcons and the Buccaneers. In 2014, not one of these teams ended the season over .500. In 2015, only Carolina had a record better than .500. ( the other 3 teams- Atlanta 8-8, New Orleans 7-9 and Tampa Bay 6-10 ). This will be Carolina’s division to win again in 2016, unless one of the other 3 teams has a break out season.
2016 Fantasy Football Outlook–
QB- AP’s Most Valuable Player was Cam Newton, an honor which was expected even as early as Week 14. Cam Newton was the #1 ranked quarterback for the 2015 season, with 4473 total yards ( 3837 passing and 636 rushing yards), 45 touchdowns ( most in the NFL) and only 10 INTs. Newton was drafted as the 1st overall selection by the Panthers in the 2011 NFL Draft and is one of the few Heisman Trophy winners (2010) to have uncommon success in the NFL ( read Utter-Fantasy’s “The Curse of the Heisman Trophy” article). Cam Newton is only getting better with each NFL season, and he has only missed two regular season games since being drafted in 2011.
RBs- RB Cameron Artis-Payne was drafted by the Carolina Panthers in the 5th Round of the 2015 NFL Draft, but it was understood that he would only be a change-of-pace running back, and eased into the offense. ( Artis-Payne ended 2015 as the #85 running back for 2015 with only 183 rushing yards and only 1 touchdown.) Due to RB Jonathon Stewart’s history of injuries, Utter-fantasy wasn’t high on him for the 2015 season. Stewart only played 6 games in 2013 and only 13 games in 2014. In 2015 he was a solid contributor in the 13 games that he played, finishing the season as the #16 running back in the NFL ( 989 rushing yards and 6 touchdowns) Unfortunately for any running back in Carolina, QB Cam Newton is a TD vulture anywhere near the goal line. RB Cameron Artis-Payne’s playing time will only increase going forward, so do not draft injury-prone Stewart in any early round next September.
WRs– Few thought that after Carolina lost WR Kelvin Benjamin in the pre-season, that they could win the NFC South Division. In August, Benjamin tore his ACL in practice ending his 2015 season. Fortunately Ted Ginn stepped up big in 2015 with a career year- 739 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns ( 7th best in the NFL). WR Corey Brown contributed as well with 447 yards and 4 TDs. Rookie Devin Funchess, drafted in the 2nd round of the 2015 NFL Draft, had only 7 receptions in his first 7 games. In Week 17, Funchess broke out with 7 catches for 120 yards and 1 TD vs Tampa Bay. A relatively non-factor in Carolina’s playoff run ( 5 catches for 73 yards total in 3 games), but Funchess did have a receiving touchdown vs Arizona in the Conference Game. Ideally, Funchess could serve as the Panthers’ No. 2 wideout in 2016, opposite Kelvin Benjamin. Ted Ginn turns 31 this April and is owed $1.4 million.
TEs- In 2011, the Chicago Bears traded TE Greg Olsen to the Carolina Panthers for a 2012 third round draft pick. That still has to sting. Olsen ended the 2015 NFL season the #4 tight end, with only Gronk having more receiving yards ( 1176 Gronk-Olsen 1104) No tight end has been more consistent than Olsen, who has only missed two regular season games since his rookie season in 2007.
K- Graham Gano ended the 2015 season the 2nd best scoring kicker, converting 30 of 36 field goals and 56 of 59 extra point attempts, the most in the NFL.
DEF- The top 5 NFL defenses for 2015 were #1 Denver, #2 Carolina, #3 Arizona, #4 Seattle and #5 NY Jets according to “the footballoutsiders. With the #2 defense and the #1 rushing offense, Carolina plowed through the regular season 15-1, and went to Super Bowl 50. HC Rivera will always put a strong defense on the field, so pencil them in as a top 10 defense for 2016. UPDATE: RE Jared Allen retired
2015 Carolina Fantasy Surprises- Prior to 2015, QB Cam Newton’s career best for passing touchdowns was 24 in 2013. In 2015, Cam threw 35 passing TD and adding 10 more rushing TDs. Newton was voted MVP for the regular season. WR Ted Ginn’s 2015 season was a career best with 739 receiving yards. In 2015, CAR WR Ted Ginn had 10 receiving touchdowns ( 7th best in the NFL). From 2014-2007 when Ginn was drafted, he had 11 touchdowns combined. RB Jonathon Stewart’s 989 and 6 rushing touchdowns was most successful season since 2009 ( 1133 rushing yards and 10 TDs).
2016 Free Agents that Carolina Needs to Address- CB Josh Norman, CB Charles Tillman, SS Roman Harper, FB Mike Tolbert, OG Amini Silatolu, DT Kyle Love, DE Frank Alexander, P Brad Nortman, CB Cortland Finnegan, OG Chris Scott, WR Stephen Hill (RFA)
2016 NFL Draft- Expect Carolina concentrate on keeping their defense on of NFL’s best, with free agency signing and young talent from the 2016 NF Draft. RCB CB Charles Tillman and fill-in slot CB Cortland Finnegan are free agents, so corner backs and tone-setting safety should be priorities. Carolina got what they could out of LT Michael Oher and RT Mike Remmers, but the O-Line desperately needs upgrading.
Did You Know- that Carolina Panther’s QB Cam Newton’s full name is Cameron Jerrell Newton
Team Home page: http://www.panthers.com/