Booms and Busts: Cam Newton outlasts Aaron Rodgers

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<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nfl/players/24788/" data-ylk="slk:Cam Newton">Cam Newton</a> scored plenty of points in Week 15 (AP/Mike McCarn)
Cam Newton scored plenty of points in Week 15 (AP/Mike McCarn)

A comeback game for Aaron Rodgers is the NFL’s version of cold pizza. Even when Rodgers isn’t fresh, he’s still pretty good.

But Cam Newton makes a tasty fantasy start, too.

Newton had the last laugh in Sunday’s 31-24 victory over the Packers, throwing for four touchdowns and adding 58 rushing yards. With two games left to play, Newton is the top scoring quarterback in Week 15. He didn’t turn the ball over, took just one sack, posted a 128.0 rating.

A resurgent Greg Olsen was Newton’s favorite target, grabbing nine passes for 116 yards and a touchdown. It’s been a long wait, but Olsen is finally off the fantasy restricted list. He wasn’t covered on his touchdown — a defensive bust all the way — but he looked dominant on his other catches. And it’s the second straight week he’s played starter snaps.

Rodgers was asked to carry the Green Bay offense, the running game junked early on. Rodgers also had to do without Davante Adams, who suffered a mid-game concussion.

Rodgers misfired on a handful of throws — and threw three interceptions — but he had his share of good moments, too (26-for-45, 290 yards, three touchdowns). The Packers looked destined for a third straight overtime game before Geronimo Allison fumbled inside of two minutes remaining.

Rodgers rushed for 43 timely yards — if he was less than 100 percent, he didn’t compete like it. On a day without his best stuff, he was still a Top 5 fantasy quarterback. But you don’t miss two months and not have a few cobwebs. Perhaps Jordy Nelson was most affected by Rodgers’s rustiness, posting an ineffective 3-28-0 line on six targets.

Christian McCaffrey was a force for the Panthers, especially early (nine touches on the first touchdown drive). He finished with 136 total yards and a touchdown catch. But the Devin Funchess angle against Green Bay’s leaky secondary didn’t click; Funchess secured just 1-of-4 targets and dropped a catchable touchdown pass.

If you advanced to the fantasy finals, look to Carolina in Week 16. The Panthers host Tampa Bay’s lousy defense next week. Rodgers and Co. have a much steeper hill to climb, a date at Minnesota against Mike Zimmer’s nasty defense.

• Kenyan Drake (113 yards, touchdown) has every look of a full-duty back, which no one expected, since he wasn’t used that way at Alabama. To be fair, the Crimson Tide always have such a stacked roster, it isn’t always easy for one player to take over.

• Washington made things closer than it had to. Kirk Cousins averaged 7.5 YPA, while Blaine Gabbert was at 4.6 (with five sacks and two giveaways). Ricky Seals-Jones didn’t take advantage of his extra opportunity, finishing 2-11-0 on six targets.

Robbie Gould has everything you want in a kicker — a long leg, an aggressive coach, and (now) a quarterback to keep the offense moving. I’d say the Bears miss Gould, but they’re so rarely in field-goal range anyway. Consider George Kittle as a streamer tight end next week if Garrett Celek (a solid player in his own right) needs time off.

San Francisco’s defense continues to stuff the run; it’s been a completely different unit with Reuben Foster on the field.

• Touchdowns are the ultimate deodorant, as Michael Crabtree underscored Sunday night. Crabtree had a historically-bad game (just 39 yards on a whopping 17 targets), but two short touchdowns pay the bills.

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