A new era begins for the Carolina Panthers on Sunday as interim coach Perry Fewell leads the team into an NFC South matchup at the Atlanta Falcons. Fewell was promoted from his role as the defensive backs coach to replace Ron Rivera, who was fired Tuesday after nearly nine seasons.
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Panthers ownership says they made the move midseason so they could begin searching for Rivera's full-time replacement, but Fewell hopes to show them the benefits of keeping the move in-house. It's Fewell's second stint as an interim head coach - he went 3-4 with Buffalo after taking over midway through the 2009 season. The Panthers have lost four straight and five of their last six, including a 29-3 home loss to Atlanta three weeks ago. The Falcons have dropped two straight since beating Carolina, falling at home to Tampa Bay and New Orleans to run their home losing streak to five games, but have won four consecutive meetings with the Panthers.
ABOUT THE PANTHERS (5-7): Carolina's biggest issue during its losing streak has been an inability to hang onto the football. The Panthers have committed nine turnovers during their four-game skid and 13 over their past six contests, including four Kyle Allen interceptions in the first meeting with Atlanta. Carolina's other looming concern is an inability to stop the run as the Panthers have held only two of their 12 opponents to fewer than 100 rushing yards, and gave up a season-high 248 yards on the ground in last week's 29-21 loss to Washington.
ABOUT THE FALCONS (3-9): After two straight convincing wins at New Orleans and Carolina, in which Atlanta committed only one turnover, the Falcons have reverted to their struggles in back-to-back home defeats. They coughed it up twice in a 35-22 loss to Tampa Bay in Week 12 and had three turnovers in last week's 26-18 loss to the Saints. The giveaways, which included two Matt Ryan interceptions, derailed one of the best performances of the season from Atlanta's defense, which limited a strong Saints offense to 279 total yards.
1. Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey's 2,162 receiving yards are the most in history by a running back in his first three seasons.
2. Ryan needs 34 passing yards to become the 10th player in NFL history with 50,000.
3. Carolina WR D.J. Moore needs 20 receiving yards to record his first 1,000-yard season.
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Key Players to Watch
- FootQues Mon | questionable
Sheffield has sat out the previous three games due to a foot injury, and it is unknown if he will suit up Monday versus the Packers.
- AnkleQues Mon | questionable
Ridley is hobbled by an ankle injury, and it remains to be seen if he will suit up for Monday's contest against the Packers.
- GroinQues Mon | questionable
McKinley missed the last game due to a groin injury, and it is unknown if he will participate in Monday's matchup against the Packers.
- HamstringQues Mon | questionable
Oluokun was held out of the last game with cramping in his hamstring, and it is undetermined if he will be ready for Monday's clash versus the Packers.
- ConcussionQues Mon | questionable
Gage left the last game due to concussion-like symptoms, and his status for Monday's contest against the Packers is in question.
- HipQues Mon | questionable
Jarrett departed the previous game with a hip injury, and it is uncertain if he will line up versus the Packers on Monday.
- GroinOut indefinitely | out
Koo will miss an undetermined length of time due to a groin strain.
- HamstringProb Sun | probable
Jones is managing a left hamstring strain and did not play in the previous game. It is anticipated that he will take the field against the Packers on Monday.
- GroinQues Sun | questionable
Okung sat out the last game with a groin injury, and it is uncertain if he will line up versus the Cardinals on Sunday.
- FootQues Sun | questionable
Short has been absent from the lineup during the previous two games with a foot injury, and it is unknown if he will draw back into the lineup against the Cardinals on Sunday.
- ToeQues Sun | questionable
Jackson exited the last game with a toe injury, and it is undetermined if he will be active Sunday versus the Cardinals.
- HipQues Sun | questionable
Chinn is dealing with a hip injury, and it is undetermined if he will face the Cardinals on Sunday.
- AnkleQues Sun | questionable
Daley has missed the past three games due to an ankle injury, and it is unclear if he will return Sunday against the Cardinals.
- AnkleOut indefinitely | I-R
McCaffrey suffered a right high-ankle sprain and has been shifted to the injured reserve list. He is without a definitive timetable for recovery.
- HamstringProb Sun | probable
Thomas-Oliver has sat out the previous two games with a hamstring injury, but he is likely to play Sunday versus the Chargers.
- AnkleProb Sun | probable
Miller is dealing with ankle and groin injuries. It is projected that he will be in Sunday's lineup versus the Chargers.