Fantasy Football: Cam Newton Running, Replacing Stevan Ridley
Without his legs Cam Newton has proven to be nothing but a QB2 option in Fantasy Football. Heading into Week 6 he amassed just 42 yards on the ground on 14 carries. For his career he averaged 7.6 carries and 42.3 yards-per-game over his first 48 games in the league. While his 117 yards on career high 17 carries against a stout Bengals defense won’t put him on his career pace it will allow his owners to breathe a sigh of relief.
In an earlier edition of the OSR Report I suggested planting Newton on your bench until you saw not one, but two consecutive strong performances from him. After seeing him throw his team on his back leaving everything on the field a 37-37 tie on Sunday it’s time to retract that statement and begin starting him again immediately. With DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart both out with injuries Fozzy Whittaker and Darrin Reaves combined to rush for 40 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries. This rushing attack is an absolute mess right now. Because of this, Newton either ran or threw the football on 63 of the Panthers 80 plays from scrimmage. In his final 10 games Newton faces just two teams that rank in the top half of the league in points allowed to quarterbacks. That’s an absolutely sweet setup. The arrow is definitely pointing up here. After this performance the buy low window is likely closed, but if you can somehow land him via trade you should definitely find yourself in good hands to close out the season.
Observation - The return of Jordan Reed (concussion) went well for owners daring enough to start him, after hauling in eight of his team high 11 targets for 92 yards. Wideouts DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon received a combined 11 targets while Andre Roberts saw nine. Niles Paul caught one of his two targets and after this performance can be returned promptly to waiver wires. Reed’s return provides Kirk Cousins with three quality options in the passing game. In an offense with a quarterback like Peyton Manning this is a good thing because sustaining all of their numbers is possible. Cousins will not be able to carry all three of these guys to usable numbers on a weekly basis. This means you are now rolling the dice playing them, especially Garcon and Jackson. Tread with caution here moving forward as each of these guys should be considered nothing more than a WR3.
Speculation – Things aren’t looking good for the Patriots Stevan Ridley. Reports have the team fearing he tore his ACL and with how quiet New England is with injuries hearing anything should lean us towards it probably being true. Most are going to assume that Shane Vereen and Brandon Bolden are going to pick up most of the slack. While Vereen will definitely be involved, I caution you to not forget about preseason darling James White. He received a ton of work this summer with the first unit and Bill Belichick raved about him this summer. We won’t know what the Patriots are thinking until they take the field on Thursday night against the Jets but if you have a squad that is thin at running back you can grab yourself a lottery ticket in White and hope it cashes in. It wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility he gets 12-to-14 touches a game making him a decent flex option moving forward.
Revelation – A player has one big game and it’s labeled catching lightning in a bottle. When he backs that up with another big performance it’s time to label him a breakout. Branden Oliver racked up another 124 total yards and a touchdown this week against the Raiders, giving him 306 total yards and three touchdowns since replacing Donald Brown following his concussion in Week 5. Ryan Mathews has yet to start running yet on his sprained MCL meaning he looks like a long shot to return before Week 8. That’s a good thing for Oliver owners, as he gets to showcase his abilities next week against Kansas City. If he lights them up taking him out of the lineup is going to be difficult, especially when you consider the fact that Mathews is a free agent following the season. Oliver is here to stay folks, and mark my words, he will finish the year as a Top-20 option at the position.
Observation – The Raiders fired coach Dennis Allen following their Week 4 loss to Miami. He was replaced by Tony Sparano on an interim basis. This gave Sparano two weeks to game plan for San Diego. It was only one game but it looks like the team is in better hands as they gave the Chargers all they could handle in a 31-28 loss. Derek Carr had his best game as a pro completing 18-of-34 passes for 282 yards and four touchdowns and one interception. San Diego gave up just one touchdown pass to opposing receivers heading into this one, but gave up four here, two to Andre Holmes, one to James Jones and another to Brice Butler. Holmes led the team in targets and looks like a guy that can be used in as a matchup play courtesy of his big play ability. The other take from this game is the running back usage as Darren McFadden out-touched Maurice Jones-Drew 16-to-5. McFadden should now be back on the FLEX map while MJD will likely start hitting waiver wires as early as this week.
Speculation – The Atlanta Falcons fell to 2-4 after their 27-13 home loss to the Bears on Sunday. This marks their third straight loss and it’s officially time to panic for this squad. When that happens, change often comes with it. Because of this now feels like the time coach Mike Smith likely follows through with his promise to get Antone Smith more involved on offense. He has now scored touchdowns on five of his 23 touches on the season. Yes, you read that correctly. Each of those touchdowns have been at least 38 yards. The man is averaging 15 yards-per-touch this season, yet his season high total for touches is six. This makes my head want to explode! This guy is fast, runs extremely hard and clearly has earned a chance at more touches at the expense of Steven Jackson, Jacquizz Rodgers and Devonta Freeman. If he received less than 10 touches next week against Baltimore it would be an upset.
Revelation - Heading into Week 6 Matt Asiata was the unquestioned starter for Minnesota. Rookie Jerick McKinnon out-touched him 17-3 in their loss to Detroit and looks to have clearly snatched that job away. Asiata is a plodder. A guy that can get you tough yards when necessary and little more than what is blocked. McKinnon is a freakish athlete that can do it all but is rough around the edges. The Lions gave up just 3.2 yards-per-carry heading into this matchup. A runner like Asiata didn’t stand a chance. McKinnon gained 40 yards on 11 carries while adding six grabs for 42 yards. A very strong effort against the league’s top defense. McKinnon may lose some goal line work to Asiata but he now should be viewed an RB2 moving forward.
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