Carolina Panthers Team Profile 2016

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/

Buffalo Bills Team Profile 2016

Buffalo Bills Team Profile 2016 by Utter-Fantasy Writer & Illustrator Doug Bowles

Rex Ryan’s first year as head coach of Buffalo wasn’t a bad one. His last year with the Jets, Ryan led the team to only 4 wins, so ending 2015 with a record of 8-8 was respectable. For the 2015 Buffalo Bills Team Profile, Utter-Fantasy predicted two things would happen…….1) the players will love him 2) the team will have a losing season. Utter-Fantasy is happy to be wrong on one of them. Give the new head coach credit for getting 8 wins out of a team thrown together in the spring of 2015. QB Tyrod Taylor wasn’t the quarterback for Buffalo in 2014.  RB LeSean McCoy wasn’t the running back for Buffalo in 2014.  TE Charles Clay, you guessed it…….wasn’t the tight end for Buffalo in 2014. WR Sammy Watkins was a rookie in 2014 ( see Buffalo Draft) and forced to start over with a new QB in 2015. These players and others all had to come together as a team over the summer and in pre-season, and make it work during the regular season. Not an easy task.

2016 Team Outlook- Buffalo ( and the rest of the AFC East Division) get stampeded by the New England Patriots. The Pats are the thorn in Rexy’s side, it was while he coached the Jets and remains while he’s coaching Buffalo ( but that’s why he got the Buffalo gig, his familiarity with his opponents in that division.) On January 10th of this year, brother Rex hired brother Rob, former New Orleans defense coordinator, to run the Buffalo defense. ( On November 16, 2015, the day after a 47–14 loss to Washington, and with the New Orleans defense ranked last in the NFL, Ryan was fired.) Nepotism doesn’t get much more ridiculous than this. Rob stinks as a defense coordinator. Not my opinion, it’s a fact. Rex Ryan’s first NFL Draft as head coach was not considered to be a very good one. In 2015 , Mel Kiper handed out his NFL Draft grades and ranked the Buffalo Bills draft dead last.

2016 Fantasy Football Outlook–

QB- Tyrod Taylor was signed away from Baltimore on March 12, 2015, the young quarterback signed a 3-year, $3.35 million contract with Buffalo. On August 31, 2015, Taylor was named the starting quarterback for the 2015 season by head coach Rex Ryan, after beating out former Bills first round pick EJ Manuel and veteran Matt Cassel in their preseason quarterback competition among the three. Although Taylor’s season wasn’t disasterous ( He set the Buffalo Bills’ franchise record for consecutive passes without an interception in the third quarter of a week 13 ) Bills GM Doug Whaley gave a half-hearted endorsement of Tyrod Taylor as the long-term starting quarterback.

RBs- A decent part of this section should be devoted to newly acquired RB LeSean McCoy’s accomplishments during the 2015 and how he overcame his Week 3 injury to become the starting running back for Buffalo once again in Week 9, but that’s ancient history for LeSean. McCoy has recently found himself in a peck of trouble. Arrest warrants for McCoy and and three other alleged assailants are expected to be served in February. McCoy is being accused of assaulting two off-duty police officers at a Philadelphia nightclub last Saturday night/Sunday morning. This has a long way to go still, but it’s possible McCoy serves time on Exempt List. In 2015, Buffalo selected rookie running back Karlos Williams’ in the 5th round of the NFL Draft. Throughout 2015, he shared time with McCoy, racking up 517 rushing yards along with 7 TD runs. He ended 2015 as the 31st ranked RB for the season. In light of McCoy’s legal trouble, Williams fantasy stock is on the rise.

WRs- Who are the wide receivers on the Buffalo Bill’s roster? Sammy Watkins. Good, now who else? Woods somebody. OK….his name is actually Robert Woods……who else? ZZZZZZZ. Therein lies the problem. Buffalo has actually been focused on selecting wide receivers in past drafts, and most are still on their roster. WR Marcus Easley was drafted in 2010, Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin in 2013, Sammy Watkins in 2014 and Dezwin Lewis in 2015. Perhaps they are still in development and will be solid contributors in the future. One has to wonder however, why Buffalo keeps adding wide receiver journeyman on their roster, such as Greg Salas, Greg Little, Leonard Hankerson and Jarrett Boykin.

TEs- Scott Chandler is the only name worth mentioning one year ago, until Buffalo shuffled him off to New England and acquired former Miami free agent TE Charles Clay. He’s a big, tough guy and Buffalo signed a five-year, $38 million deal back in March, and Buffalo paid him like an elite tight end.  It was an expensive 51 catches for only 528 yards with 3 measley touchdowns. TE Scott chandler could have done that. Wait…Scott Chandler DID do that, in 2014….almost….47 catches for only 497 yards with 3 measley touchdowns for Buffalo. After only one year with a new head coach and new teammates, Clay can’t be considered a bust yet. Clay has great size and talent so the Bills need to tap into more of it in 2016.

K- Buffalo’s Dan Carpenter had been in the top 10 rankings for kickers in 2014 ( #6) and 2013 (#10) . Due to a poor offense, Carpenter fell to #20 in 2015. Carpenter seemed to struggle the most with the extra yardage added to extra point in 2015. He went only 34 for in 40 attempts, the most missed extra points in the NFL.

DEF- The Buffalo defense took a nose dive in 2015, falling from #3 in 2014 to #26. So how did Rexy decide to fix it. He brought in his brother Rob, who was fired from New Orleans for engineering the worst defense in the NFL. ( that’s like hiring CLEV WR Josh Gordon as a guidance counselor for chemical dependency!)

2015 Buffalo Fantasy Surprises- My fantasy football surprise from Buffalo isn’t Sammy Watkins ( we all expect him to do great things), but QB Tyrod Taylor. While running back LeSean McCoy was the only Buffalo Bills player to officially make the 2015 Pro Bowl, first-year quarterback Tyrod Taylor also made a trip to Hawaii as an alternate for the game, replacing Panther’s quarterback Cam Newton. Tylor ended 2015 as the 18th ranked quarterback in the NFL. He threw for 3035 yards and ran for 568 more. Taylor also had the least amount of interceptions (6) for any QB playing in al least 14 games. Another fantasy football surprise for 2015 was RB Karlos Williams. Many people questioned HC Ryan’s selection Williams in the 2015 NFL Draft, but Williams was a contributor to the offense in 11 of Buffalo’s 16 games last season and as mentioned earlier, RB McCoy’s legal trouble could lead to Williams be the #1 running back in Buffalo for 2016.

2016 Free Agents that Buffalo need to address- OG Richie Incognito, DT Corbin Bryant (RFA), OLB Nigel Bradham, WR Percy Harvin, FS Bacarri Rambo (RFA), DT Alex Carrington, CB Ron Brooks, DT Stefan Charles (RFA), OTJordan Mills, WR Leonard Hankerson LT Cordy Glenn

2016 NFL Draft- Buffalo has half of their O-Line headed for free agency, so if they can’t find a way to keep them, they must replace them. HC Rex Ryan ( and now Rob) have to fix a defense that ranked #26…..they need help with new linebackers and in their secondary.

Did you know- January 2016 marked the first time the two twins, Rex Ryan and Rob Ryan, had coached together since 1995. Back then, they were coaching under their father, Buddy Ryan, with the Arizona Cardinals.

Arizona Cardinals Team Profile 2016

Arizona Cardinals Team Profile 2016 by Utter-Fantasy Writer & Illustrator Doug Bowles

HC Bruce Arians became an NFL head coach for the first time when hired by Arizona on January 17, 2013. Named the Associated Press Coach of the Year after leading the Cardinals to an 11-5 record and a berth in the postseason in 2014. In 2015, Arians (with a healthy Carson Palmer), lead the team to yet another post-season appearance, and top of the NFC West division with a 13-3 regular season record. The NFC West title earned the Arizona Cardinals a “bye’ in the Wild Card Weekend, and the following week they beat Green Bay in the Divisional game. Losing to Carolina in the Conference game cost Arizona a shot at the Super Bowl.

2016 Team Outlook- The NFC West consists of Arizona, Seattle, St. Louis and San Francisco. Even with RB Marshawn Lynch retiring, the Seahawks will still be contenders in that division. St. Louis and San San Francisco have major concerns at the quarterback position, for starters, so it should be another Arizona/ Seattle slugfest for the division.

2016 Fantasy Football Outlook-

QB- Carson Palmer had a career year in 2015, throwing for 4671 yard, 35 touch down passes- only 11 INTS. Palmer’s worst game unfortunately came in the Cardinals’ blowout loss to the Panthers in the NFC Championship Game. Carson Palmer completed 23-of-40 passes for 235 yards, one touchdown, and four interceptions and lost two fumbles. Palmer is 36 years old ( he’ll be 37 on December 27th, 2016) but Palmer was a legitimate MVP candidate and plays in an offense with playmakers all around him. He also has one of the best head coaches in the NFL. He should once again be a solid QB1 in 2016 and a top 10 fantasy football quarterback for fantasy owners.

RBs- Atlanta Falcon RB Devonta Freeman was the running back star of the 1st half of the 2015 NFL season, and Arizona RB David Johnson made a case for being the running back star of the 2nd half of the 2015 NFL season. ( David Johnson was selected by the Cardinals in the 3rd round of the 2015 NFL Draft-)  Prior to Week 12 of the 2015 regular season, RB Johnson totaled 109 rushing yards, backing up RB Chris Johnson. In Johnson’s last 5 regular season games as the starter, he rushed for 442 and added 5 touchdowns. ( he also had 216 receiving yards in those 5 games) A duo threat rushing and receiving, Johnson has all the makings of a three-down back in one of the NFL’s best offenses, and should be one of the top 5 running backs drafted next September ( see Utter-Fantasy article “Mock Football Drafts from 2015 to 2016″ )

WRs- The 2015 NFL season was a “Renaissance” for both QB Carson Palmer and WR Larry Fitzgerald. In 2014, Fitzgerald was the #55 ranked wide receiver at the end of the season, with only 63 receptions, 784 receiving yards and 2 TDs. ( of course, injuries to Arizona quarterbacks had a lot to do with these poor stats). With a healthy QB Carson Palmer,  Fitzgerald’s ranking as wide receiver at the end of the 2015 season jumped all the way up to #9, with 1215 receiving yards and 9 TDs. (“Fitz” also dominated the Divisional post season game win against the Green Bay Packers.) With WR John Brown ( #22 WR for 2015) and Michael Floyd ( #34 WR for 2015), the Cardinals are poised for another prolific season for Arizona fans and fantasy football owners.

TEs- The Cardinals are so stacked in their receiving corps, that it might be impossible for any tight end ( unless Gronk suddenly got trade west) to make a huge offensive mark in Arizona. The Cardinals had 2 tight ends marginally involved in their offense in 2015, Darren Fells (311 receiving yards and 3 TDs) and Jermaine Gresham (223 receiving yards and 1 TDs). These 2015 stats are likely the ceiling for any tight end in Arizona in 2016. Gresham is a free agent this year.

K- Good NFL offenses usually leads to good fantasy years for “kickers’. Injuries to Arizona quarterbacks in 2014, made it difficult for the Cardinals to be a good offensive team, which is why K Chandler Catanzaro was only the #19 ranked kicker that season. With QB Palmer healthy, The Cardinals offense was very good and so was K Chandler Catanzaro, knocking in 28 of 31 field goals and the 2nd most extra points in the NFL ( 58). Catanzaro ranked as the 3rd best kicker in the NFL for 2015.

DEF- In 2014, Arizona was ranked #7 in defense. With a smash-mouth mentality, Arizona was even better in 2015, ranking #2. Pencil the Cardinals in for a top 5 defense again for 2016.

2015 Arizona Fantasy Surprises- Going into the 2015 NFL season, RB Andre Ellington was to be the workhorse for the Arizona Cardinals, with Chris Johnson as his back up. Few people thought that CJ2K had much left in the tank, after sputtering about the league the past couple of years. Ellington’s sprained PCL at the beginning of the 2015 season, gave CJ2K the starting job and he was the fantasy surprise. From Week 2 through Week 8, Johnson racked up 645 rushing and receiving yards with 3 rushing touchdowns. A fractured tibia in Week 12 ended his season, but for a stretch there, ol’ CJ2K was back in the NFL. Chris Johnson is a free agent in 2016.

2015 Free Agents that Arizona need to address-  RB Chris Johnson,  C Lyle Sendlein, OG Ted Larsen,  OLB Dwight Freeney, WR Jaron Brown (RFA), TE Jermaine Gresham, ILB Sean Weatherspoon, SS D.J. Swearinger (RFA), OLB LaMarr Woodley, DE Red Bryant, FS Chris Clemons, QB Drew Stanton, FS Rashad Johnson, FS Tony Jefferson (RFA), RT Bobby Massie, CB Jerraud Powers

2016 NFL Draft- The early needs of the Arizona Cardinals are, like almost every NFL team, is shoring up their O-Line due to free agency. Their #2 defense needs some young players mixed in, and Arizona might have the worst supporting cast backing up QB Palmer in the NFL. ( Prior Arizona Cardinal Drafts )

Did you know- The Cardinals have not drafted a quarterback in the first 3 rounds of any draft since 2006 ( Matt Leinart, Round One- 10th overall)