Christian McCaffrey will be back on the field for the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, but can the Kansas City Chiefs stop him?
McCaffrey’s fantasy managers have been waiting the inevitable good news, and now it’s official. On Saturday morning, McCaffrey was taken off IR and he is eligible to play against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.
McCaffrey suffered an ankle injury in Week 2 and has not played since. If not for a short week ahead of a Thursday night game against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 8, he might have returned then. This week then looked likely, and it’s come to fruition barring a surprise deactivation Sunday morning.
Mike Davis has done well in McCaffrey’s place. He with 594 yards from scrimmage, 38 receptions and four total touchdowns (two rushing, two receiving) this season. Narrowing to his six starts, Davis has put up 519 total yards (349 rushing; 4.2 yards per carry) with 30 receptions and four total touchdowns.
McCaffrey was on the field for 93 percent of the Panthers’ offensive snaps in 2019, as he became the third player in NFL history to have 1,000 yards rushing and receiving in the same season. In his one full game this season, he played 97 percent of the snaps. Apart from Davis proving himself as a capable backup, McCaffrey will almost surely not play nearly every snap in this first game back.
Can the Chiefs stop Christian McCaffrey?
The Chiefs seemed headed toward having a notable absence for Sunday’s game. But defensive tackle Chris Jones has been activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list, and he should be able to play. Kansas City entered Week 9 29th in the league against the run (142.8 yards per game), and they are allowing 4.8 yards per carry (fifth-worst in the league). So they have struggled stopping the run this season with or without Jones, who missed Week 4, with a groin injury.
As it relates to McCaffrey and the unique dual threat that he is, let’s take a deeper dive with a certain tilt. The Chiefs are in the top half of the league in fantasy points allowed to running backs (20.2 per game; Yahoo! 0.5-point PPR). They are also top-half in the league in receptions (37, 4.6 per game) allowed to the position, and in the middle of the pack in receiving yards (323; 40.4 per game) allowed to running backs.
So the short answer looks like yes, the Chiefs can stop McCaffrey in his first game back as the Panthers are careful with his workload. But what looks likely in theory ultimately has to be done in tangible practice, and that’s where the challenge lies for the Chiefs on Sunday.