When Cam Newton is at his best, football is simply so much fun.
One of the most polarizing players in fantasy during the offseason, Cam was always in the discussion. However, it wasn’t about his potential, but rather his potential downfall. Coming off ankle surgery and having “no” receivers to throw to, many declared Cam dead for fantasy purposes and let him slide in drafts. I mean, I got him as a backup quarterback in the 15th round of one of my drafts this year.
Whoa, crazy, crazy.
Anyway, through the first four weeks, Cam wasn’t great by any means, averaging just 15 fantasy points per game. However, in Week 6, Newton absolutely exploded for 35 fantasy points, thanks to the return of his rushing ability. During his first four games, Cam had 14 total rushes for just over 40 yards. But on Sunday, we saw Killa Cam do what he does best, running with the football an insane 17 times for 107 yards and a touchdown. Insanely enough, that wasn’t even a career high for Cam on the ground. He also made an impact with his arm, throwing for 284 yards and two more touchdowns. The game did go to overtime, but still, most of Cam’s damage occurred in regulation. He just looked more confident, strong and, most importantly, healthy. The rushing touchdown was his first in his last nine contests, a nice return for fantasy owners. So, the question is, should owners expect this production from Cam the rest of the way, or is it a one-time thing?
I’m buying Cam, folks.
According to Raymond Summerlin of RotoWorld, Cam only had one read-option run during the first half of Sunday’s game, but that number climbed to 10 during the second half of the contest. Maybe the Panthers saw something they could exploit in the Bengals defense, or maybe they just finally unleashed Cam. The Charlotte Observer reported that Carolina installed more running plays for Cam during the practice week prior to Sunday. Either way, after watching their offense drop 37 points on a normally good Cincinnati defense, there’s no way the Panthers can go back to limiting Cam’s usage, especially with the way their running game is looking. I think from here on out, owners should expect anywhere from 6-10 carries per game from Newton.
Who else am I buying?
Tom Brady, New England Patriots- Okay, so perhaps everyone was wrong about Brady. After totaling just 39 fantasy points over his first four contests, Brady has now scored over 51 fantasy points over his last two games against the Bengals and Bills. So why has Brady suddenly looked more like the QB1 of old? Well, the offensive line has been much, much better lately. Just look at Brady’s numbers when under pressure over the last two weeks, according to Pro Football Focus.
Week 5- Under Pressure 18.4 percent of the time. Sacked 14.3 percent.
Week 6- Under Pressure 22.5 percent of the time. Sacked 22.2 percent.
To put that into perspective, the weeks prior, Brady has been under pressure on average 34 percent of the time, so the offensive line has been much, much better. When the guy has time to throw the football, he’s still very, very effective. According to PFF, he was under pressure on just nine of 40 dropbacks, and when he wasn’t under pressure, he completed 80 percent of passes. The weapons still aren’t very good, and his deep ball is still a concern, just 5-of-23 thus far. His next two games are against the Jets on Thursday night, where he is 6-0 with 1,700 yards, 13 scores and a 108.0 rating, and then a home meeting against the Bears.
Isaiah Crowell, Cleveland Browns- First of all, Crowell is only owned in 20 percent of leagues, so you should probably go try to add him. Having said that, I’m buying Crowell, for sure. On Sunday, fellow rookie Terrance West was a healthy scratch, so we know how the Browns feel about their current one-two punch of Crowell and Ben Tate. The Browns are dominating with their running game, as Tate now has over 200 yards and two scores over the last two weeks, while Crowell had 11 carries for 77 yards and a score on Sunday. He did fumble twice, but only lost one of them. The Browns are a completely different team than last season, going from the pass-happiest club in football to the second-most run heavy team behind Dallas, averaging 32.8 rushing attempts per game. This team wants to use both Tate and Crowell, and looking at Tate’s injury history, Crowell could be a top-20 fantasy running back at one point this season.
Sammy Watkins, Buffalo Bills- Watkins was shadowed by Darrelle Revis on Sunday, which was the main reason behind his two-catch, 27-yard performance. However, I think the rookie wideout makes for a strong buy low option that could potentially win you your league down the stretch. First of all, Kyle Orton has made this passing offense at least serviceable, and Watkins was targeted a healthy 12 times in Week 5 when he wasn’t on Revis. The matchups get very favorable for Watkins, starting this week against a Minnesota defense that is allowing the ninth-most fantasy points per contest to opposing wideouts thus far. And his schedule for the fantasy playoffs is awesome, getting Denver, Green Bay and Oakland in the championship week. He still plays the Jets twice, who just lost starting corner Dee Milliner for the season with a torn Achilles. The talent is too evident with Watkins, and he’s going to have a few gangbusters fantasy outings. The rookie receiver is currently fifth among all wideouts in snaps played (390), so the opportunity is clearly there.
Eli Manning, New York Giants- Sunday night’s game was brutal for Manning, not that he was bad, but he just didn’t stand a chance. He had no time to throw the football, averaging just 3.22 seconds from the time the ball was snapped until he was sacked, according to PFF. And now, already being without their pass-catching back in Rashad Jennings, the Giants will miss Victor Cruz for the remainder of the season. It’s a very small sample size, but in the two games without Cruz over the last three seasons, Manning is averaging just over 13 fantasy points per game and one touchdown.
Shane Vereen, New England Patriots- Many may think this is odd, as Stevan Ridley is now out for the year, but I really don’t think this makes for great fantasy news for Vereen. After Ridley left Sunday’s game, Brandon Bolden came in and served as the early-down back, finishing with six carries, all coming in the fourth quarter. Yet, those six carries were still more than Vereen’s in the game. New England wants a smashmouth runner back there behind Brady, and they see Vereen as a guy who will get you five or six catches with a few carries in there to change the pace. I think the Ridley news makes for an opportune time to sell high on Vereen.
DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans- I love Hopkins, and he was my breakout candidate heading into the season. However, if he has a big game in the upcoming weeks, I would definitely look to sell him high. Houston is running the football so, so much, averaging 30.5 rushing attempts per game (7th), and are running the ball 51.7 percent of the time, the highest percentage in all of football. And Andre Johnson is still the go-to guy in this offense, catching 33 percent of Houston’s team receptions. Only Jordy Nelson of the Packers has a higher percentage in football. Hopkins also isn’t seeing the number of targets to be consistent, failing to see double-digit looks in any game this season.