We can now officially declare, without fear of contradiction, that Cam Newton is doing things we've never seen from an NFL quarterback of any tenure, rookie or veteran. On Sunday, Newton was nearly unstoppable. He broke the all-time single-season record for rushing touchdowns by a QB, finding the end zone for the 11th, 12th and 13th times this year. The previous mark belonged to Steve Grogan, a man who retired from the NFL in 1990, when Cam was just one year old.
Newton led the Panthers to a 38-19 win at Tampa Bay on Sunday afternoon, passing for 204 yards, rushing 14 times for 54, and hauling in one pass for 27. You'll find highlights of his ridiculous day right here. All three of Cam's rushing scores were 1-yarders, as he reestablished his dominance at the goal line.
As of this writing, Newton leads all fantasy scorers in Week 13 with 38.26 standard-league points. He's a lock to finish among the top-five at his position, the eighth time he'll have done so this season. He'll almost certainly finish as the week's top-scoring quarterback, the third time this year he'll achieve that distinction.
So...what are we planning to do with this guy on draft day in 2012?
With four games remaining on Carolina's schedule this season — including a rematch against the Bucs in Week 16 — Cam is on pace to finish with 4,396 passing yards, 691 rushing and 34 total touchdowns (17 pass, 17 rush). If he gets anywhere near those totals — let's say he finishes with 4,200, 600, 17 and 15 — then he'll cause all sorts of problems next August. At the moment, he leads the league in rushing touchdowns (not just his position, but all positions. LeSean McCoy is second with 12). Cam is an unprecedented combination of a high-volume goal line back and a 4,000-yard passer. This is like Stephen Davis-meets-Steve Beuerlein, to put it in terms that a Carolina fan can appreciate. And again, this is a first-year player we're discussing. Newton will presumably get better as an NFL quarterback, not worse.
But at some point, you'd think the Panthers would prefer to protect their most important investment, not risking him in short-yardage situations. Fantasy-wise, Cam has clearly benefited from the fact that his team's defense has been a sieve this season, guaranteeing a weekly shootout. We have to allow for the possibility that Newton is peaking as a fantasy asset right now, even if he's only going to improve as a passer.
Still, if I had to draft a 2012 fantasy roster right now, tonight (terrible idea), Newton would rank no lower than fourth on my board at quarterback, behind only Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Tom Brady. And realistically, if I were picking at the turn at the end of Round 2, with Brees and Brady available (and Vick, Stafford, Romo and both Mannings), I'm not sure I'd have the discipline to let Newton fall. Regression and injury risk are the obvious worries — this position has a rich history of run-dependent fantasy busts — but it's easy to talk yourself into drafting a dual-threat star.
We don't have to resolve the 2012 Newton dilemma today, thankfully. But you're encouraged to begin the debate in comments, after the bulletry...
• Jason Garrett vomited forth an end-game for the ages in Week 13. It's almost tough to explain the sequence, because it made so little sense. First, Garrett failed to call a timeout after Dez Bryant's catch gave Dallas a first down at the Arizona 31, with 26 seconds remaining in regulation. Garrett had two TOs to burn. Instead the Cowboys allowed seconds to tick away, down to 0:07. When Garrett finally used a timeout, he essentially iced his own kicker and erased a 49-yard Dan Bailey field goal. You can watch the messy, regrettable play here. This wasn't Garrett's only fourth quarter meltdown this year, and you suspect it won't be his last.
And while we're discussing Cowboys-Cards...
• When Dick Stockton is calling out open receivers who aren't being targeted, then you know a passer is really frustrating the fantasy community. So it went with Kevin Kolb on Sunday. Larry Fitzgerald deserved a much better day in Week 13, but he finished with four catches for 55 yards. In the third quarter, two plays before a short Jay Feeley field goal, every viewer (Stockton included) saw Fitz open at the goal line, posting up a DB ... but Kolb fired elsewhere, incomplete. Kolb's final stat line was acceptable (247 yards, TD), thanks mostly to a short screen that became a 52-yard overtime TD for LaRod Stephens-Howling. But Fitz owners are pining for some John Skelton.
• If you've invested heavily in the Packers offense this season, then you're no doubt thrilled to see that the undefeated season is still alive. Green Bay's pursuit of a 16-0 record could be the only thing that keeps Aaron Rodgers, Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson and Co. on the field in the final weeks. Rodgers was brilliant again in Week 13, per his usual. He hasn't posted a passer-rating below 100 in any game this season, which is absurd. Rodgers threw for 369 yards and four scores against the Giants, directing a final-minute scoring drive that ended with Mason Crosby's game-winning 31-yard field goal. Jennings and Jermichael Finley each caught touchdown passes, and Donald Driver had two. (Yes, Jenning's TD was highly questionable. As I now understand the process-of-the-catch rules, it's no big deal if a defender knocks the ball from your hands, as long as the ground doesn't do it).
We should note that James Starks was carted to the locker room in the win, injuring an ankle. He was replaced by Ryan Grant and Brandon Saine, though neither player put a big number in the box score. Saine flashed some modest PPR utility (four catches); Grant was his typical self (13 carries, 29 yards).
• Ray Rice was a monster on Sunday, rushing for 204 yards and one TD on 29 carries. It was a wet, sloppy day in Cleveland and Rice couldn't be tackled. Ricky Williams was no picnic either, as he ran for 76 yards on 16 carries. Ricky poached a short-yardage score, set up by Rice's 67-yard run. "They just flat out whupped us up front," D'Qwell Jackson later said. "They embarrassed us. It was a slap in the face." No argument here.
• San Francisco linebacker Patrick Willis exited early on Sunday, dealing with a hamstring issue that will require a Monday MRI. The injury isn't thought to be severe, and the Niners still managed to shut out St. Louis with Willis sidelined, cruising 26-0. The league's top-ranked run defense held Steven Jackson to just 19 yards on 10 carries. The next rushing score against San Francisco will be the first of 2011.
Frank Gore dominated the rushing workload against the Rams (21 carries), leaving only a few small scraps for Kendall Hunter (five carries, four yards). Gore became the Niners' all-time leading rusher on Sunday, so congrats to him. Alex Smith had an efficient day (11.9 Y/A, two TDs) and Kyle Williams made some noise again (25 rushing yards, 66 receiving, TD). The highlight play for Williams was this 56-yard score in the fourth quarter (note the wicked block on Rod Hood there at the end). Vernon Davis had a terrible drop on what should have been a long TD; the Niners don't throw often enough to allow anyone to overcome missed opportunities, so Vernon wasn't helpful this week (5-32-0).
• Hakeem Nicks has irritated a few fantasy owners lately, as many seem way too concerned about his value relative to Victor Cruz. But Nicks was outstanding in a losing effort on Sunday, catching two touchdown passes (one of them a one-hander) in an 88-yard day. That guy remains a star, and the offense has been productive enough to yield more than one starting-quality receiver. More good news for Giants fans: The broken-footed Ahmad Bradshaw gained 47 scrimmage yards in his return, and we believe he walked away healthy.
• The same-day prognosis on Matt Forte is that he'll miss 2-4 weeks with an MCL sprain, though he's considering platelet-rich plasma injections to speed the healing process. No idea if that will work, but I'm willing to donate platelets to the cause, as needed.
One last Bears note before we hit the pick-ups: Roy Williams should just be cut. Tonight. Four hours ago. I'm ready for the Roy era to end. Sunday's dropped TD was the final nail. (Actually, it was the fifth or sixth nail after the final nail, but you get the idea. Roy must go).
Early waiver plays for Week 14...
QB Christian Ponder at Detroit
QB Alex Smith at Arizona
QB Rex Grossman vs. New England (I won't be making this add, but you can feel free)
QB Tarvaris Jackson vs. St. Louis (on Monday night! Wha—?)
RB Ricky Williams vs. Indianapolis
RB Marion Barber at Denver
RB/WR Dexter McCluster at New York Jets
RB Brandon Saine vs. Oakland
WR Golden Tate vs. St. Louis
WR Demaryius Thomas vs. Chicago
WR Kyle Williams at Arizona
WR Andre Roberts vs. San Francisco
-posted at 11:05 pm ET
Percy Harvin erupted in the second half at Minnesota, as did pretty much every fantasy asset involved in the Broncos-Vikings game, except the defenses. Harvin finished his day with eight catches for 156 yards and two long touchdowns (52, 48). Both of the scores were yards-after-catch events, too. Exceptional plays, gifts to anyone who happened to start Christian Ponder. The Vikes' rookie QB put the ball in the air 47 times, completing 29 for 381 yards. Ponder passed for three touchdowns, but he also tossed two picks — and the second interception basically decided the game.
Denver corner Andre' Goodman picked off Ponder in Minnesota territory, with just 1:25 on the clock, setting up the game-winning field goal. Tim Tebow had a terrific day, and he did it in the traditional manner for quarterbacks: 202 passing yards, 2 TDs, no INTs, four carries for 13 yards. Tebow extended plays on multiple occasions, avoiding pass-rushers, setting up long gains. It was an impressive effort, no question (though we should note that Minnesota's secondary couldn't have played any worse. On a few completions, there wasn't a DB in the frame). Demaryius Thomas caught four passes for 144 yards and two scores, while Willis McGahee topped 100 rushing yards for the sixth time this season.
Let's hope you made an investment in that game. Particularly if you're facing this dude...
• Shonn Greene delivered the first only great fantasy line of the season, rushing for 88 yards and three touchdowns at Washington. The final two TDs were gifts from a lifeless defense. Greene added three catches for 26 yards, which is more receiving action than you'd normally expect.
• Roy Helu was the only Redskins back who received a carry in Week 13, finishing his day with an even 100 rushing yards and an early score. Helu also caught four passes for 42 yards. Washington was led in receiving by tight end Fred Davis (6-99-0), a man who's looking at a four-game suspension. So yeah, Helu is basically the only good news on the 'Skins side.
• Approximately 25 minutes after I tried to give some hope to Andre Johnson owners (see below), the Houston wideout went down untouched, injuring a hamstring. His owners should note that this is not the hamstring that caused him to miss the middle weeks of the season. Head coach Gary Kubiak gave us this nugget:
"It's actually the other hamstring (left). It has been described to me as not being severe. ... We'll see tomorrow."
So we wait. The news could be worse. Johnson had four catches for 97 yards prior to exiting, so he wasn't a complete dud.
• The early word on Matt Forte's injury is a right MCL sprain. No word yet on the severity/grade. Marion Barber rushed for 44 yards on 14 carries in Forte's absence, and Kahlil Bell added 34 yards. But without Cutler and Forte, there's clearly not much hope for the Bears offense. Things are officially bad enough that people around here are discussing Donovan McNabb as if he could be helpful. That's when you know you've reached the low point.
• After his Week 13 binge against Indy, Rob Gronkowski now owns a share of the single-season record for receiving touchdowns by a tight end (13). We thought he had No. 14, but the final score was apparently ruled a lateral (no small issue for Tom Brady owners). Gronk obviously still has another month in which he can run away and hide with the all-time record.
• The Colts never really threatened on Sunday, yet Dan Orlovsky and Pierre Garcon were absolute monsters in garbage time. Orlovsky went 30-for-37 with 353 passing yards, connecting nine times with Garcon for 150 yards and two scores. Donald Brown finished with 14 carries to Joseph Addai's 13, and he crossed the goal line in the fourth quarter. But note that in the first half, Addai was the head of the committee.
• As of this writing, Cam Newton is the day's top overall scorer, well ahead of the competition. Newton finished with 38.26 standard fantasy points, thanks mostly to the three short rushing scores. Cam now owns the NFL single-season mark for rushing scores by a quarterback (13). We'll likely have more to say about Newton's ridiculous season in the final update; for now, let's just note that he's on pace for well over 4,000 passing yards with 17 rushing TDs. Not too shabby.
• The Dolphins dominated Oakland on Sunday, running out to a 34-0 lead through three quarters. Reggie Bush rushed for 100 yards and one score on 22 carries and Brandon Marshall caught four passes for 60 yards (plus he could've had a TD if Matt Moore would have pulled the trigger an instant earlier. Bah). Carson Palmer managed to put a few points on the board after the outcome was determined (273 yards, two TDs), appeasing his owners.
• Atlanta-vs.-Houston wasn't exactly a fantasy buffet, as those two teams combined for just 27 points and each finished with 337 total yards. But it was reassuring to see Julio Jones haul in four passes for 68 yards; he was the targeted receiver on Matt Ryan's final failed Hail Mary, into triple-coverage. Tony Gonzalez caught seven balls for 100 yards, and Roddy White gave us a 4-51-1 fantasy line.
Arian Foster and Ben Tate combined for 152 rushing yards on 42 carries, with Foster getting the go-ahead score in the fourth quarter. As long as the game flow allows, we should probably expect Sunday's run-pass mix from the Texans every week (44 to 25).
-posted at 5:35 pm ET
Uh-oh. We begin today with nightmarish news for the Chicago Bears: Matt Forte was drilled on his right knee by Kansas City linebacker Derrick Johnson in the first quarter at Soldier Field, and it doesn't look good. Video here. Forte remained down on the field for a disturbingly long time, then was quickly ruled out for the day.
We don't have a full diagnosis just yet and may not get it until Monday, but this is clearly a scary injury. Marion Barber is the obvious pick-up, though he's long gone in competitive leagues. Barber should have had a receiving touchdown in the second quarter, but he lined up incorrectly, leading to an illegal formation flag. Terrible.
That game is basically a train wreck, full of bad news. Julius Peppers visited the locker room for maintenance later in the first half, but he eventually returned to the game (and nearly decapitated someone as soon as he reentered). Kyle Orton made a cameo appearance for KC, ran a flea-flicker, and promptly dislocated the index finger on his throwing hand. (Ugly pic right here). We're seeing lots of short low-risk throws from Caleb Hanie and Tyler Palko. Hanie missed an unbelievably wide-open Earl Bennett for what should have been an easy score. This game is the football equivalent of two 90-year-old ladies fighting with purses. Awful.
We should note that the first half ended on a Hail Mary touchdown by the Chiefs, on a play where Brian Urlacher attempted to swat the pass to the ground, but instead batted it to Dexter McCluster. Of course he did. Just a perfect conclusion to a horrid half.
• Roy Helu has already had a breakout performance or two this year, so we can't describe Sunday's game in those terms. Let's just note that the rookie looks terrific in Week 13, in a degree-of-difficulty match-up against the Jets defense. You already knew about the shiftiness, the speed, the pass-catching ability; check out Helu's power inside-the-5 on this early rushing score. Helu went to the break with 63 rushing yards on 11 carries.
• CJ Spiller just delivered his first legitimately impressive half of football at the pro level, gaining 93 scrimmage yards on 13 touches against the Titans. Spiller found the end zone on this perfectly ridiculous play (originally ruled a touch-back), and he had a second long score negated by a holding penalty.
• On the Tennessee side of that game, Chris Johnson is delivering again in a friendly match-up. He rushed for 106 yards on just nine first-half carries, breaking the plane twice. CJ's first touchdown was a vintage 48-yarder, straight from the 2009 files. He hesitated in the backfield, found his gap, then launched. Impressive stuff. Johnson may not have even been touched on his second score, a way-too-easy 4-yard TD.
• At half, Cam Newton had 125 passing yards, 34 on the ground, and 27 as a receiver. So that's a pretty decent all-purpose day. Here's a clip of the catch, on a throw-back from Legedu Naanee. That thing was ripped from an old Hayden Fry playbook. Cam ran for a 1-yard TD in the first half — his 11th rushing touchdown of the season — and he later found Naanee for a passing score.
We should probably mention the fact that Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams both received goal line carries for the Panthers, with J-Stew converting in the first quarter. Cam later added rushing TD No. 12 in the third quarter, diving across the goal line from a yard away.
• Vikings rookie Kyle Rudolph delivered a brilliant 19-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter, somehow hauling in this ball, while completely shielded by Quinton Carter.
• Folks, TJ Yates looks legit — perhaps a bit better than simply competent. He was turnover-free in the first half against Atlanta, and he hit Joel Dreessen for a 3-yard score. The passing TD was set up by a well-thrown 50-yarder to Andre Johnson. Yates is obviously the key to AJ's rest-of-season value, so this is good to see.
• Joseph Addai was denied at the goal line early in the second quarter at New England, and he's doubling-up Donald Brown's rushing workload. Neither player has made much of a dent in the box score just yet, and of course the Patriots are rolling. Rob Gronkowski has already established the single-season touchdown record for a tight end, catching three on Sunday (so far). Over the final four games of the season, Gronk has a decent chance to push that mark to a place where no one can challenge it.
• Rashard Mendenhall had a pair of first half scores at home against the Bengals, as the Steelers are rolling. Antonio Brown has a 60-yard punt return TD and Mike Wallace caught a 12-yard score. That match-up looks like a demolition, though perhaps Andy Dalton can direct a comeback effort.
-posted at 3:00 pm ET
The fight is nearly upon us, gamers. Our foes prepare to unleash their Greenes and Staffords and Bryants. LIFT HIGH YOUR WARHORN, RAGNAR...
(Clangs sword and battle-axe together)
OK, let's go get a fake football win. It's Week 13, the beginning of the playoffs for many of us. Set a good lineup today.
If you need last-minute news and advice, please join the council of Yahoo! elders for Fantasy Football Live, beginning an hour before kickoff. You'll find updated position ranks right here and a full injury rundown over here. Give no quarter this week, ask no quarter. When you have earned your victory, join us in comments for revelry and mirth.
A few early status notes: Based on the early reports, it's looking good for Michael Turner, Julio Jones, Ahmad Bradshaw and Kevin Smith this week. Activate as needed. But Josh Freeman is expected to sit for Tampa, missing an outstanding match-up (Carolina). The Bucs will dip into their strategic Josh reserve, starting Josh Johnson. This could be a LeGarrette Blount friendly day; the Panthers have allowed the most fantasy points to running backs this season, by a healthy margin.
-posted at 11:45 am ET
Photo via AP Images (Gronkowski, Forte) and US Presswire (Cam, Garrett, Harvin)