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FFL: Offseason | NFL: Superbowl

Panthers-Falcons Preview

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Players: Matt Ryan, Cam Newton, Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman, Will Grier, Kyle Allen

Carolina Panthers' Perry Fewell is shown during his first press conference as the NFL football team's interim head coach, at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C., Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019. Ron Rivera was fired as head coach on Tuesday. (David T. Foster III/The Charlotte Observer via AP)


Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) leaves the field during the second half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints, Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019, in Atlanta. The New Orleans Saints won 26-18. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)


Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn speaks to an official during the first half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints, Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)


ATLANTA (AP) Former Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Roddy White says he tells players, “You're always being evaluated, whether you're winning or losing.”

The same is true for NFL coaches.

Panthers interim coach Perry Fewell begins his audition for the full-time position when Carolina visits Atlanta, where Falcons coach Dan Quinn's status is uncertain, on Sunday.

“It gives me an opportunity to prove it, and it gives our players an opportunity to prove it,” said Fewell, who took over for the fired Ron Rivera on Tuesday. “That’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to go out and prove that we can win a football game this Sunday, and then we will move to the next objective."

The Falcons (3-9) have been eliminated from playoff contention. Quinn took the Falcons to the Super Bowl in 2016 and another playoff berth the following year. This season will be his second straight with a losing record.

White, the Falcons' all-time leader in receptions, will be inducted into the team's Ring of Honor on Sunday. His 11 seasons with Atlanta included Quinn's 2015 debut season.

“I think Dan is a good coach," White said Wednesday. “I really have respect for him and the things he's done for our organization."

White is an assistant coach at Johns Creek High School in the Atlanta area. He said he has “zero" interest in becoming an NFL coach. One reason is the instability of what he said is “a win-now league."

The latest example of impatience came when Panthers owner David Tepper fired Rivera, who has the most wins of any coach in Carolina history (76-63-1 in the regular season).

Fewell was Carolina's secondary coach before being named interim coach. Four straight losses left the Panthers (5-7) on the brink of elimination from the playoff race and prompted Tepper to move on from Rivera so he could begin searching for the next coach.

Fewell was interim coach in Buffalo in 2009.

“It helps that I’ve done this before," he said. “I have this experience, so I know where to go, what to do and how to do it.”

Quinn has been unable to fix such nagging problems as a poor running game, leaky protection for quarterback Matt Ryan and an inconsistent pass rush. Ryan was sacked nine times in last week's 26-18 loss to New Orleans.

One of Atlanta's few 2019 highlights was a 29-3 win at Carolina on Nov. 17, leaving Quinn 7-2 in the series.

The Falcons hope that sweeping the season series with the Panthers could be the start of a strong finish to a disappointing season. It's not known if that would be enough to save Quinn's job.

NEW TURNER IN CHARGE

Buried in the news of Rivera's firing was that Tepper promoted quarterbacks coach Scott Turner to offensive coordinator and play caller. Turner replaces his father, Norv, who was removed from the role and will serve as assistant to the head coach. There won't likely be wholesale changes to the Panthers' offense, but Scott Turner will hope to be more successful than his dad in the red zone. Carolina's struggles near the goal line were a big factor in four losses this season.

HOPE FOR JULIO

Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones returned to practice this week after missing last week's game with a shoulder injury. It was the first game Jones missed since 2016. He hasn't had a touchdown catch since Week 3. Jones' expected return would come one week after running back Devonta Freeman made his return after missing two games with a sprained foot.

ALLEN REMAINS AT QB

Fewell announced season-ending foot surgery for Cam Newton this week. There has been no talk of playing third-round draft pick Will Grier, and Fewell said the Panthers will stick with second-year quarterback Kyle Allen against Atlanta. Allen is 5-5 as a starter, but has lost five of his last six starts. He threw four interceptions and was sacked five times in last month's loss to the Falcons.

STILL UPBEAT

Ryan said the Falcons haven't given up on the season. “I think the mindset has been good," he said. “We’ve got a good group of guys in this building that are committed to one another and committed to trying to play well for one another."

RUN DEFENSE

The Panthers' poor run defense helped lead to Rivera's exit. Defensive coordinator Eric Washington is expected to take over the play calls against Atlanta with some input from Fewell. Significant improvement may be difficult with defensive tackles Dontari Poe and Kawann Short on injured reserve. The Panthers are allowing 137.5 yards per game on the ground and have surrendered a league-high 22 touchdowns rushing. That could be good news for Freeman, who is still looking for his first rushing TD of the season. Carolina has also allowed 18 run plays of 20 or more yards.

Player Notes
Will Fuller Jan 25 4:43pm ET

Houston Texans WR Will Fuller (groin) underwent sports hernia surgery, according to sources Saturday, Jan. 25. He's expected to make a full recovery.

Fantasy Spin: Fuller was limited to 11 games in 2019. He managed to catch 49 of 71 targets for 670 yards and three touchdowns, but he's now four years into his career and has yet to play more than 14 games. He'll again be a risky but high-upside WR3 in 2020 drafts.

From TheHuddle

George Kittle Jan 25 2:43pm ET

San Francisco 49ers TE George Kittle in 2019 received the highest-ever full-season grade given to a tight end by Pro Football Focus, and has been named the site's 2019 Dwight Stephenson Award winner as the best player regardless of position.

Fantasy Spin: In catching 85 of 107 targets for 1,053 yards and five TDs, Kittle finished as fantasy's No. 3 tight end in both standard and PPR leagues. He's made more of an impact with his run blocking so far this postseason, but he'll be near the top of fantasy TE wish lists this summer once again.

From TheHuddle

Eric Berry Jan 25 2:13pm ET

Free-agent S Eric Berry (Chiefs) sat out the 2019 season but plans to play in 2020.

From TheHuddle

Jameis Winston Jan 25 1:33pm ET

Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston is coming off an up-and-down season in which he hit career highs in yards (5,109) and touchdowns (33) but also interceptions (30), including seven pick-sixes, and former Buccaneers general manager Mark Dominik said it's time the Bucs and Winston part ways. 'I would be surprised if they pay him,' Dominik told PewterReport.com. 'Maybe they will. It's their decision, but I would be shocked if the Bucs franchised Winston -- or transitioned him. I think the decision they have is certainly difficult because there has been some production there, but I don't know how you could justify paying Jameis Winston more money this year than he made last year.'

Fantasy Spin: Unless your league deducts heavy penalties for turnovers, Winston was fantasy gold last season, finishing only behind Lamar Jackson in total fantasy points. The interceptions and miscues, though, are a little more unforgivable in real football, and whether or not Winston is retained by the Bucs promises to be one of the most intriguing storylines of the offseason.

From TheHuddle

D.J. Chark Jan 25 12:50pm ET

Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver D.J. Chark doesn't expect his role to change going into next season under new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden. Chark became the team's No. 1 receiver under John DeFilippo in 2019, and he expects Gruden to do the same to utilize his playmaking abilities. The second-round pick of 2018 had a breakout year in 2019 and thinks Gruden's West Coast offense is a good fit for him. Chark is in his first Pro Bowl after catching 73 passes for 1,008 yards and eight touchdowns. He had 14 catches for 174 yards and no touchdowns as a rookie. He'll have WR2 upside going into 2020, but the uncertainty at quarterback will make him a bit volatile in fantasy drafts.

From RotoBaller

Albert Wilson Jan 25 12:50pm ET

Miami Dolphins wide receiver Albert Wilson won't have any of his $9.5 million salary guaranteed for the 2020 season unless he's on the roster for Week 1 of the regular season. The Dolphins are likely to discuss a restructuring of his contract in the weeks ahead. There will be $1.3 million in dead money but $9.5 million in salary cap savings if the Dolphins cut him. The 27-year-old slot receiver missed three games due to injury last season and caught 43 passes for 351 yards and just one touchdown in his second year in Miami. He could never really get on track after his slow start because of injury, and Wilson will be an afterthought in redraft leagues going into the 2020 season.

From RotoBaller

Patrick Mahomes Jan 25 12:43pm ET

Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes reminds retired QB Brett Favre of himself with some of the traits he has displayed on the field. 'I see the comparison,? Favre said. 'He may not admit this but he probably feels there is no throw he can't make or no angle he can't make it from. Whether he's flushed left or to the right, his vision always is down the field. I was always looking for the big play first and knew I could always react underneath if I needed, too. You have to have a certain confidence or air about you that you can make any throw, and it has been proven he can make any throw.'

Fantasy Spin: Mahomes is off to a particularly impressive start in the postseason with 13 total touchdowns (including two rushing), 1,313 total yards (125 rushing) and no interceptions in four playoff contests over two seasons. He'll challenge Lamar Jackson for first-QB-off the-board fantasy honors this summer.

From TheHuddle

Tom Brady Jan 25 6:43am ET

The New England Patriots want to know if impending free-agent QB Tom Brady will return to the team for the 2020 season before the legal tampering period for free agency begins March 16, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Fantasy Spin: Schefter reasoned that the Patriots want a quick decision so they can pursue other quarterbacks in free agency in case Brady chooses to leave the only organization he has ever played for. New England wants to avoid a situation similar to last season when Rob Gronkowski waited until late-March to announce his retirement, meaning that the best free-agent tight ends had already been signed by other clubs. From a fantasy standpoint, Brady should be viewed as a QB2 in most formats at this stage of his career but he could merit consideration as a low-end QB1 if he has plenty of offensive weapons surrounding him.

From TheHuddle

Dee Ford Jan 24 6:23pm ET

San Francisco 49ers LB Kwon Alexander (pectoral) and DE Dee Ford (hamstring, quadriceps) were limited during practice Friday, Jan. 24, but are not listed on the injury report for Super Bowl LIV. LB Dre Greenlaw (ankle), S Jaquiski Tartt (ribs) and WR Dante Pettis (illness) fully participated in practice and are not on the injury report.

From TheHuddle

D.J. Chark Jan 24 6:13pm ET

Jacksonville Jaguars WR DJ Chark Jr. said he expects to have a similar role in the offense next season under offensive coordinator Jay Gruden.

Fantasy Spin: Chark was one of the breakout players this season and finished with 1,008 yards and eight touchdowns. He likely will be the main target in the passing game again next season and could be at least a No. 3 fantasy receiver.

From TheHuddle

Tevin Coleman Jan 24 6:13pm ET

San Francisco 49ers RB Tevin Coleman (shoulder) did not participate in practice Friday, Jan. 24, and is considered questionable for Super Bowl LIV.

Fantasy Spin: Coleman probably will need to practice at some point next week if he wants to play in the Super Bowl. He will share playing time with Raheem Mostert and Maatt Breida if he is active and could be a flex option.

From TheHuddle

Tevin Coleman Jan 24 5:43pm ET

San Francisco 49ers RB Tevin Coleman's (shoulder) MRI results were positive, but Coleman did not participate in any practices this week, according to head coach Kyle Shanahan.

Fantasy Spin: Fantasy players will need to keep an eye on Coleman's practice participate next week to see if he has a chance to play in Super Bowl LIV. Coleman will be part of a committee if he is active and should see some touches during the game. He can be considered a flex option.

From TheHuddle

Albert Wilson Jan 24 5:03pm ET

Miami Dolphins WR Albert Wilson likely will be asked to restructure his contract this offseason if he wants to remain with the team. The Dolphins would save $9.5 million in salary cap space if they release Wilson.

Fantasy Spin: Wilson had a disappointing 2019 season with 351 yards and one touchdown. The Dolphins likely will look to upgrade at the position so Wilson probably would drop down the depth chart if he stays. He probably can be avoided in fantasy leagues next season.

From TheHuddle

Morris Claiborne Jan 24 4:23pm ET

Kansas City Chiefs S Jordan Lucas (illness) did not participate in practice Friday, Jan. 24, and is considered questionable for Super Bowl LIV. DT Chris D. Jones (calf) was limited during practice and is considered questionable. WR Demarcus Robinson (illness), WR Mecole Hardman (back), CB Morris Claiborne (shoulder) and C Austin Reiter (wrist) fully participated in practice and are not on the injury report.

From TheHuddle

Travis Kelce Jan 24 4:13pm ET

Kansas City Chiefs TE Travis Kelce (knee) was limited during practice Friday, Jan. 24, and is not on the injury report for Super Bowl LIV.

Fantasy Spin: Kelce appears to be on track to play and probably will see more practice time next week. He is a must-start option in fantasy leagues.

From TheHuddle

Drew Brees Jan 24 3:33pm ET

New Orleans Saints impending free-agent QB Drew Brees said he will only play for the Saints in 2020 if he decides to continue his playing career.

Fantasy Spin: Fantasy players will need to monitor the situation to see if Brees returns to the Saints next season. He posted solid numbers this season even though he missed some time because of an injury and could be a low-end No. 1 fantasy quarterback if he plays.

From TheHuddle

Drew Brees Jan 24 3:10pm ET

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who will be a free agent in March, plans to return to the Saints if he comes back for a 20th season in the NFL. "I have never been in the situation where I was mulling over the thought of [returning]," Brees said. "To me, each one of these contracts, I don't know how many it's been with the Saints, I've played with them 14 years, it's not a matter of if it gets done, it's when. At this stage of my career, it's not a given that I'm coming back every year, but when that time comes, I'll always be a Saint." Despite diminished arm strength, Brees was one of the best quarterbacks when he returned from his thumb injury last season. He may no longer have sky-high QB1 upside for fantasy owners, but Brees will at least be a midrange QB1 target next season if he returns to New Orleans, which is what is expected.

From RotoBaller

Aaron Rodgers Jan 24 3:03pm ET

Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers had a 'really, really good ' first year in head coach Matt LaFleur's offense, general manager Brian Gutekunst said Friday, Jan. 24, and the GM is looking forward to the encore in 2020. I'm really excited to see what he can do in Year Two,' Gutekunst said. 'I know Matt talks a lot about what Matt Ryan did in Year Two, the comparatives there. I'm really excited to see where him and the offense can go.'

Fantasy Spin: Rodgers threw for one more TD (26-25) than he did in 2018 but his passing yards declined by 440 yards as he finished 12th among fantasy QBs in terms of total points. Rodgers will turn 37 before next season ends but don't be surprised if he takes a jump into solid QB1 territory with a year in the system under his belt and the Packers expecting to add wide receiver and, possibly, tight end help this offseason.

From TheHuddle

Dak Prescott Jan 24 2:33pm ET

Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott, a pending free agent, will be re-signed and remain the team's quarterback, Cowboys vice president Will McClay said Thursday, Jan. 23. 'We expect Dak to be our quarterback,' McClay said. 'If the owner/GM says we're going to get it done, he signs the checks. So we'll get that done.'

Fantasy Spin: Even though the Cowboys were an overall disappointment at 8-8, Prescott had a career year with 4,902 yards and 30 passing TDs to finish as fantasy's No. 3 QB. Barring an shocking turn of developments, Prescott will land a lucrative new deal from the Cowboys and be back in the QB1 mix this offseason.

From TheHuddle

Kareem Hunt Jan 24 1:53pm ET

Cleveland Browns RB Kareem Hunt's car was found to contain marijuana following a traffic stop Tuesday, Jan. 21, in which Hunt was issued a speeding citation in Ohio.

Fantasy Spin: Although Hunt wasn't cited for possession, he could face scrutiny from the league after sitting out the first half of the 2019 season due to a personal-conduct suspension. Without a ban, Hunt projects as a low-end RB2 entering next season.

From TheHuddle