Coach Ron Rivera said this week he has a plan to get starting running back Jonathan Stewart some rest so he’ll be fresh for the playoff run.
Stewart has 20 or more carries in seven straight games, which is more than in any stretch in his career, as I’ve mentioned here before. Rivera also said this week he wanted to get Cameron Artis-Payne some reps. Payne has been inactive the last four games and he didn’t play the previous week. But if anything were to happen to Stewart, Artis-Payne and not Whittaker would be first up as the every-down back.
Whittaker is more of a third-down or passing-situation option. Having said all this, the Panthers will do whatever they need to do to get to 16-0. Winning is the focus. But Rivera understands the value of having Stewart fresh for the playoffs and getting Payne some experience for that “what if?’’ scenario.
We had a recent article that said the Panthers at least want to clinch a bye and maybe even home field advantage before resting Stewart. The more they win, obviously, the sooner that will be, so it's something for owners to keep in mind as we head into the fantasy playoffs.