High Hopes for Christian McCaffrey’s Return

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By Sean Overton, Sports Writer

 

Carolina Panthers top running back Christian McCaffrey has missed the last six games because of a high ankle sprain but is hopeful to return for Week 9 against the Kansas City Chiefs.

“I hope Christian will be back next week,” Panther’s head coach Matt Rhule said in an interview last week. “I just passed him in the hallway walking over here.”

McCaffrey was reportedly sighted participating in practice last Tuesday, yet was not activated on the roster for last Thursday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons. The Panthers lost that game 25-17. Running back Mike Davis had 13 carries for 66 yards and 1 reception for 11 yards. Mike Davis has done a phenomenal job filling in for McCaffrey, totaling 594 yards and 4 touchdowns in his 8 games played. In fantasy football leagues, Davis has totaled 199.4 fantasy points, averaging 14.9 points per game. This gives him good value as a solid RB2 or Flex option in larger leagues.

In 2019, McCaffrey had one of the best fantasy seasons of all time, totaling 471.2 fantasy points. This gave him an average of 29.4 points per game, a league-best in 2019. He also led the league by nearly 50 points (Lamar Jackson was second with 421.7 points). He became just the third player in NFL history to record over 1,000-yards rushing and receiving.

“He’s one of the best players in the National Football League,” Rhule stated.

Panthers quarterback Teddy Bridgewater does not believe that their offense will see a dramatic change with the return of McCaffrey. Of course, the team is ecstatic over the return of McCaffrey, but the team has done well with Davis filling the role.

Bridgewater had high praise for Davis, “For him to step in and do the things that he’s done, he’s been a true pro. He’s been working extremely hard.”

Although there might not be a huge change in the way that the Panther’s offense operates with the return of McCaffrey, they may look to play both McCaffrey and Davis at the same time. The Panthers have also used wide receiver Curtis Samuel in the backfield multiple times this season. They may be looking at lining him up in the backfield and having McCaffrey potentially in a wide receiver position. This may have a huge outlook for fantasy players with McCaffrey. If this package starts working more and becoming effective, it would give McCaffrey many more targets as a wide receiver, improving his PPR score dramatically.

With Carolina’s next game being against the reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, they could use all the weapons they have. Rhule is hopeful that McCaffrey will be active for that game, but is prepared to use Davis if McCaffrey is not cleared to play. McCaffrey will be a great fantasy option this week, even against the improved Kansas City defense. Of course, this pushes Davis out of the starting spot, so fantasy owners should likely consider dropping him out of the roster. If desperate enough he may still make a solid FLEX option, but owners should likely consider dropping him.

McCaffrey will probably not get as many touches as he is used to, but will get around 10-15 touches on Sunday. With McCaffrey back as an option, the Panthers wide receivers will start to become open more. Kansas City will have to divert a large portion of their defense towards containing McCaffrey, giving Bridgewater more options to target wide receivers throughout the game. Carolina has a solid WR trio of Robby Anderson, Curtis Samuel, and D.J. Moore. Moore has been having a great fantasy season, totaling 113.2 points through 8 games. Moore has caught 33 of 59 targets for 622 yards, averaging 18.8 yards per reception.

The possible return of Christian McCaffrey could have huge implications for the Carolina Panthers and fantasy owners. Expect McCaffrey to be a solid fantasy option but know that his touches will be limited this week.

 

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