Football is a funny sport, especially for a team that rarely gets to be in the spotlight. The last time I remember seeing Cam Newton under the watchful eye of prime time, it was Thursday Night Football, week 3 and it was the 2012 season. Heading into the game, the Panthers were 1-1 and were fresh off a win over a division rival – the New Orleans Saints – and were riding high. It was Cam’s second season in the league and people were expecting great things from the young man. And then September 20th happened and the good times left the building. Cam and company left their home turf after a humiliating loss at the hands of the Giants. After a 36-7 loss, a lot of people – both fantasy enthusiasts and real – began to question Supermans superpowers. Was the guy that looked like he was pouting on the sidelines under his towel really a leader? Was the guy who just threw 3 interceptions really the person that was gonna bring Carolina back to prominence? And so on and so forth and the rest of the season played out and people forgave but never forgot the towel-covered Cam. He was a childish athlete who’d never learn how to play within the game, they said. An egotistical prat who lacked the ability to guide a team to victory, they chattered. And for most of 2012, the people were right. But some light must’ve popped on at the end of 2012 as they went on to win 5 of their last 6. Sure, the Panthers finished 7-9 but there were flashes of the team we saw on Monday last year. We were just too blinded by Cam hatred to see. And of that Cam hatred? Well, to help his team go to 8-3 on the 2013 season, Newton finished with 209 passing yards and 3 passing TDs while leading his team in rushing on the night with 62. Yeah, but you ain’t talking fantasy, Sky, this is all about real football. No one cares. Well you SHOULD care, imaginary reader. This team is fighting for the playoffs. It has motivation and incentive down the stretch to actually win their division and a supercharged Cam can be a Superman Cam at any moment and tonight he definitely was that. Cam looked better than he has in a while in the passing game. I don’t know if it was his receivers stepping up or him playing at another level – I’ll defer towards the former but that’s cuz Cam’s been pretty damn good all year, y’all – but there’s reason for JB to be pointing at the back of that jersey tonight. Cam is legit. Panthers are legit. And now I have to write about other guys and I’m completely spent. In other news from week 11 MNF for the 2013 Fantasy Football season…
Stevan Ridley – He fumbled…normally that’s the end of the story but xmas came early and the Grinch Belichick’s heart grew a few sizes bigger on the night and let the poor kid back in and. Lo and behold, it paid off: 13/48/1. Ok, not the greatest of stat lines but the TD saved some fantasy bacon out there. And we all know the only thing more sacred than real bacon is fantasy bacon. Canadian bacon? That probably has something to do with Fantasy Hockey. I don’t know anything about it. You should ask Andrew. I was admittedly a little worried about Ridley coming into tonight and still admittedly am…can I say admittedly one more time? Good. Fumbles are a Hoodie Bill bugaboo and the more Vereen gets involved, the more I wonder what will happen to Stevan. For now this story is a TBD but don’t be surprised if this turns into a WTF come playoff time.
Greg Olsen – I kinda wonder at times if the world is ready for an aughts rendition of He-Man. No more cheese, let’s go Chris Nolan on this. No more pink tunics or furry loin cloths. Let’s get gritty. And while we’re at it we can update Battle Cat, aka Cringer, into a Panther rather than a Tiger and we can make Greg the lead actor. He couldn’t be worse than Dolph Lundgren can he…can he?!? But I digress. Olsen had himself a fine night with a 5/52/1 line. Now lets party.
Shane Vereen – I’d just like to point out for everyone else who’s had comments issues with this. It really is spelled Vereen. Not Vareen. Don’t worry, I was picking up what you were putting down but everyone has their peccadilloes. I like mine with a little sour cream and some home made guacamole, personally. But more to the point,
Vareen Vereen finished with PPR dream numbers: 8/65 and even threw in a few yards on the ground while he was at it. He shouldn’t be available but if he is…well, you need a new league and pick him up.
Case Keenum – Yeah, I’m sneaking in some Sunday news. Last time we talked, Keenum was benched for Hand Schaub. But don’t fret, Kubiak says he’s starting again this Sunday. Methinks management said he could keep his job the rest of the season if he stopped doing stupid things while Kubiak tries to go down with the ship with his first mate. If I wanted to see Dicaprio and Winslett make out, I would’ve watched Titanic…ok, I wouldn’t have but I would’ve forwarded to about an hour and 12 minutes, 13 seconds in for when Kate gets nude. Don’t judge me. PS, I can’t trust a QB who got benched mid-game for no reason. QB2 with upside this week but no more top 10 until shows his commitment can last for 4 quarters.
Steve Smith – This really isn’t even fantasy related. Ok, maybe it kinda is. Steve Smith changed the momentum of this game. Pats be all like ‘we gone win dis’ and Smiff be all like ‘Talib please!’. He only finished with 4 catches for 62 yards but set the tone early that the Panthers weren’t gonna take ‘ish from nobody. It didn’t show up in his box score but it showed up everywhere else. Respect. When Steve retires, I fully expect he becomes a bouncer at the Road House.
Rob Gronkowski – Do I really have to talk about ‘the play’? Ok, ok but let’s cover the stats first shall we? He went for 5/59/1. Good top 10 line for a TE. You wanted more? Sure, of course. But the Panthers defense is for real. I’m playing in an IDP league for the first time and Thomas Davis scored me over 20 points on the night. I don’t even know how. Heck, I don’t even know who Thomas Davis is. I might have to ask Kevin Kumpf about it on Thursday when he does IDP rankings. Neverthewho! Gronk has only had one game scoring less than 10 points in standard since his return. This is why you drafted him. Just wish he’d started this around, say, week 4. Now for my response on ‘the play’…meh. I’m a fantasy football player, I just care about the box score! Slight sarcasm assumed…let’s talk about this in the off-season, shall we? I have other things to deal with around here.
Tom Brady – The game plan was solid: make the Carolina defense play from sideline to sideline then wind up and take shots down the field when they were available. A couple of more deep ball connections and Brady would’ve looked better with his end line than he did tonight: 29/40 for 296, a touchdown and ‘the play’ that led to the INT. Overall, Brady was a gameplan technician throughout most of the game. The Panthers weren’t going to give Tom much time back there so the Pats adroitly (word of the day!) planned for plenty of short out routes, slants and bubble screens which would explain the receptions to ‘dola (6/45) and others mentioned above. It was a slow crawl down the field for New England every time but it was on purpose and it was with method. To be fair, the plan would’ve worked if it weren’t for those rotten Pats defenders on third down. But Brady got Scooby Doo’d and we all got left with the Lumberjack ending. I’m still devastated that Rita died. I don’t wanna talk about it.