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Fantasy 411 - Week 8

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Cam Newton is taking suggestions. The Carolina second-year quarterback told reporters that he was open to suggestions to get himself and his team on track after a 1-5 start on the heels of high expectations. The solution is simple in my mind. So, here is my suggestion to Newton and the Panthers on how they can right the ship and salvage the season.

 

A year after flashing a dynamic offense in Newton’s rookie season, the Panthers have failed to score more than 14 points in four of their six games this season. Fantasy owners likely spent a high draft pick on Newton expecting him to continue to develop as a passer and lead fantasy squads like he did last season.

Last season the Panthers gave DeAngelo Williams a huge contract and followed that up with a new deal for fellow running back Jonathan Stewart this season. Consider that they also added multi-talented Mike Tolbert this offseason, and the Panthers appear to have the most talented backfield in football. But, seven weeks in to the season, all that talent has not translated to on-field success.

 

Williams and Stewart were drafted in virtually every league and expected to provide flex help and fill in on bye weeks, but after an abysmal start, according to our friends at www.fleaflicker.com, the once reliable duo are among the most cut running backs in fantasy football. While many owners are giving up on Williams and Stewart, the fact is that a commitment and resurgence of the running game is exactly what the Panthers need if they want to salvage the season.

With only 85 carries in six games for the duo, the Panthers have been abandoning the run and are simply not positioning the two to succeed. The remedy for the Panthers is to allow the running game to set up the passing game. Offensive coordinator Rod Chudzinski is a hot name in coaching circles and may be trying to be too cute and gimmicky with his play calling. There are no assurances that the Panthers get on track and put Williams or Stewart in a position to contribute to your team, but don’t give up and cut them at this point. A returned commitment to the running game will relieve the pressure on Newton and open up the field for all their other players.

 

A diagnosis of Newton might require as much a psychiatrist’s couch as a fantasy owner’s perspective. Newton has not shown the type of leadership you hope to see from your quarterback in press conferences. While he is taking responsibility and not looking to blame others, his antics and seemingly fragile psyche remind me of Vince Young. Newton is not used to losing and he appears to detest it, but he must channel his frustration in a way that fuels his career and strengthens who he is as a player.

I expected Newton and the Panthers to come out of their bye week with a renewed perspective and a strong game plan to face off with an average Dallas Cowboys defense. Instead, the Panthers struggled again to put up points in a 19-14 loss. They had their chances, but Newton threw an interception in the end zone in the first half, contributing to another disappointing performance and close loss. Newton draws a tough assignment in Week 8 against the Chicago Bears, and how he responds this week will go a long way in determining how the rest of the season, and possibly more, will shape up for him.

 

A struggling quarterback almost always translates into disappointing numbers by the team’s receiving corps. Steve Smith enjoyed a resurgence last season, putting up 79 receptions for nearly 1,400 yards and seven touchdowns. Smith has not been able to duplicate that success thus far this season. Smith has not registered 100 yards since Week 2 and he has yet to find the end zone. Similarly, Brandon Lafell had shown growth and progress in a complimentary role to Smith.

This season, Lafell has suffered with the Panthers offense, proving to be nothing more than a desperation play in deep leagues. Smith and Lafell will find more freedom downfield if defenses have to commit their defensive line and linebackers to defend the run. Without a healthy commitment to the running game, the Panthers and fantasy owners alike, are in for a long, disappointing season.

Here’s to hoping that a promising and exciting offense, that is full of potential, gets it all figured out and contributes to your fantasy football second half.