Dose: Super Cam

Adam Levitan
Quarterback Notebook
Rich Hribar breaks down statistical notes and nuggets as it pertains to quarterbacks and their 2016 outlooks

When Cam Newton gets hot, there’s not a quarterback this side of Peyton Manning that’s better in fantasy.

Over the final eight games of last year, Newton averaged 245.8 passing yards, 49.2 rushing yards, threw 13 touchdowns against four picks and added four more scores with his legs. That hot finish didn’t carry over into this year as the Panthers offense adjusted to new OC Mike Shula’s offense, but they’re all adjusted now. In Thursday’s 31-13 thrashing of the Bucs, Newton went 23-of-32 for 221 yards with two touchdowns and added a season-high 11 rushes for 50 yards with another score.

Yes, Newton is using his legs more. As Evan Silva noted on Twitter, the 4-3 Panthers are now 4-0 when Cam has at least seven rushing attempts. But perhaps bigger than that is his progress as a passer. Unlike in years past, Newton just takes what the defense gives him. It’s led to a ridiculous 77.3 completion percentage over the last three weeks. During that span Newton has posted a 130.3 passer rating by going 58-of-75 for 667 yards with six touchdowns and no picks, adding 30 carries for 106 yards with three touchdowns.

Following a Week 9 game against the Falcons, the schedule gets a lot tougher (at SF, vs. NE, at MIA Weeks 10-12). But the 24-year-old Newton has turned a corner for both his team and fantasy owners. He’s a top-four quarterback weekly no matter who he plays against.

Mike James played better than his stats looked. He stood up blitzers in pass protection and showed some nice burst through holes. But he lost all “passing back” work to Brian Leonard, which cost him a bunch of catches. James has an even worse matchup at Seattle in Week 9. … Tim Wright finished with a 5/48/1 line, most of which came in garbage time. That’s fine by us though. Wright is really athletic and plays in all passing situations. Don’t sleep. … Mike Williams (hamstring) started the game but didn’t finish. … DeAngelo Williams and Mike Tolbert appeared to split snaps evenly. It’s going to get even messier once Jonathan Stewart (ankle) returns. … The Bucs used Darrelle Revis in more press man and shadow coverage against Steve Smith, leading to a 4/42/0 line for Smitty. … Don’t chase Ted Ginn’s 5/80/0 night. He’ll alternate good games with Brandon LaFell and Greg Olsen’s ankle will be better after 10 days off.

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It looks like the Bills are finally going to say “enough is enough” with C.J. Spiller. He wants to play through his ankle sprain and insists he’s ten times better, but the tape shows otherwise. And coach Doug Marrone sees that – at last.

“At the end of the day, we have to make a good decision and see where he’s at, because we just need him to get over this hump. We haven’t been able to do that for three weeks,” Marrone said.

On Thursday, a source told WGR 550 Buffalo that the odds Spiller suits up against the Saints Sunday are “extremely slim.” And Spiller sounds OK with that. Again, finally.

“Speed and quickness, that’s 98 percent of my game,” Spiller said. “If I’m not able to go out there and make a guy miss with my quickness, it works in their favor.”

Fred Jackson, who has played effectively through his sprained MCL, will be a quality RB2. Tashard Choice is the next man up for this week.

Owners that can afford to buy low on Spiller and stash him are going to be rewarded. If he can get that ankle to 100 percent by Week 13 – which shouldn’t be a problem – he’ll be greeted by matchups with the Falcons, Bucs, Jags and Dolphins to end the fantasy season.

DeMarco Murray reportedly sustained a Grade 2 MCL sprain in Week 6 and rookie backup Joseph Randle handled himself well in Week 7. But virtually every report out of Dallas says Murray is going to come back and play in Sunday’s game against the Lions.

If that’s the case, it’s fair to estimate that Murray is very close to 100 percent already. There’s no way the Cowboys would rush one of their most important (and injury prone) players back at this point in the season. Owners can pencil Murray into lineups and those of us that scooped Randle off waivers are left with scraps already.

James Jones (knee) said that if this weekend were the Super Bowl, “maybe” he could suit up. That’s a sure sign he’s not going to play against the Vikings Sunday night. And that means Jarrett Boykin is in line for another 8-10 targets from Aaron Rodgers.

But the theory that Boykin is going to turn into a pumpkin once Jones returns in 1-2 weeks doesn’t hold water. He can play inside and take those short wideout screens and hitches the Packers used to run for Randall Cobb (knee, IR/recall). Boykin is also willing to go up the seam and do some of the things Jermichael Finley (neck) did. And we know the Packers love to use three-wide as their base. Boykin has long-term appeal regardless of Jones’ status.

Rashard Mendenhall (toe) is shaping up as a game-time call. Andre Ellington owners shouldn’t throw a fiesta yet though, the Cards keep saying they need to limit the rookie’s snaps. Consider Alfonso Smith Mendy’s direct backup. … Adrian Peterson’s hamstring isn’t 100 percent, but he’ll be ready to rock Sunday. … Michael Vick (hamstring) continues to practice in full. He’s in all my lineups. … Steven Jackson (hamstring) isn’t making any guarantees, but he’s on track to finally return. Don’t expect much production in a tough matchup at Arizona, but he crushes Jacquizz Rodgers’ appeal. … Brandon Jacobs (hamstring) remains out of practice. I’d try not to touch Peyton Hillis or Michael Cox anyway. … According to coach Allen, Darren McFadden (hamstring) looks “explosive” as the Raiders come out of their bye. He’s a borderline RB1.

Miles Austin (hamstring) barely practiced Thursday. If active Sunday, he’s going to play behind Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley. … Larry Fitzgerald (hamstring) continues to practice in full as he gets set for a dream home matchup with the Falcons. … Lance Moore (wrist) appears ready to go as the Saints come out of their bye. He’s a deep-league WR4 option. … Jimmy Graham (foot) continues to sit out of practice. The injury isn’t serious, but the Saints won’t rush him to play in a home game against the Bills. They can win with Ben Watson starting. … Percy Harvin (hip) is unlikely to play Monday, but he’s definitely in play for Week 9. I’d use him as a WR3 right out of the gate. … Jermichael Finley (neck) is out of the hospital and evaluating the next step. I’d be stunned if he played again this year. … Santonio Holmes (hamstring) is targeting Week 10 for his return. … Roddy White (hamstring) missed another practice. Fire up Harry Douglas again. … Danny Amendola (concussion) practiced again, putting him on track to play against the Dolphins (insert new injury joke here). … Cecil Shorts (SC joint) and Justin Blackmon (hamstring) are fine to use as top-20 wideout plays.