MVP, thy name is Cam Newton.
The Carolina Panthers quarterback scored a league-leading 41 fantasy points Sunday, marking the first time in his career he scored at least 40; his previous best was 37, set in Week 13 of 2011 and replicated in Week 12 of 2012. To reach the 40-point fantasy threshold is quite a feat for a quarterback -- remember that passing scores are worth four rather than six points in ESPN standard play -- and Newton became only the 18th NFL quarterback since 1960 to do so:
Simply reaching the 30-point fantasy threshold is impressive, and Newton has done it four times this season alone, all of those coming within the past seven weeks. Only four other NFL quarterbacks since 1960 had more games worth at least 30 fantasy points in a season: Steve Young (1994), Tom Brady (2007), Drew Brees (2013) and Peyton Manning (2013) each had five. Daunte Culpepper (2004), Donovan McNabb (2004), Brees (2011) and Aaron Rodgers (2011) share a tie with Newton for fifth place, with four apiece.
Thanks to Newton's Week 15 performance, he now has captured the scoring lead among all players for the season with 328, nine more than Brady (319).
Newton's 328 fantasy points are already the second most he has ever had in a season in five years in the NFL. He's on pace for 375 fantasy points, which would rank as the sixth most in history (including pre-1960 data). As is, Newton's 328 fantasy points already rank him 20th among NFL quarterbacks since 1960, and that's with two games remaining. Not bad for a player who was selected in the 10th round, and as the No. 10 quarterback, in average ESPN live drafts.
Oh, and then there's the matter of Newton leading his Panthers to a 38-35 victory, extending their undefeated season to 14-0.
It's that last point that influences Newton's rest-of-season fantasy prospects, as the Panthers already have clinched a first-round playoff bye and need either one win or one Arizona Cardinals loss in Week 16 or 17 to assure home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. Newton could be rested as a result, unless the team considers its quest for an undefeated season important enough to afford him full games in each of the final two weeks. Before the Panthers began their Week 15 game, however, coach Ron Rivera provided no hints as to his team's plan for resting players.
Arizona Cardinals rookie David Johnson set the rushing pace on Sunday night, scoring 40 fantasy points, second most among all players in Week 15 thus far. That tied him for the 10th-best fantasy game by any rookie running back since 1960, and it was the most by any rookie since Doug Martin had 51 in Week 9 of the 2012 season. Here is the top 10:
Those 40 fantasy points also gave Johnson 69 in his first three NFL starts. That tied him with Adrian Peterson (Weeks 2-3 and 6 of 2007) for the fifth most since 1991 by a running back in his first three career starts.
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown's 30 fantasy points paced his position and, thanks to 16 receptions, he managed 46 points using PPR scoring, which is the best single-game score in that format by any player at any position this season. Who held the previous best? Simple: Brown, with 45 in Week 9.
By scoring at least 45 PPR fantasy points twice this season, Brown became the first wide receiver since 1960 to do that multiple times in a single season. Even in standard scoring, though, Brown's performance is unparalleled: He now has five games of at least 25 fantasy points in that format, which is also more than any wide receiver has had in a single season since 1960.
Brown also captured the scoring lead among all wide receivers for the season with 215, four more than Odell Beckham Jr. (211).
That puts Brown on pace for 246 fantasy points using standard scoring and 377 using PPR, which would be five and three shy of his 2014 final totals and would place him eighth and fourth among wide receivers since 1960 (his 2014 totals of 251 and 380 rank sixth and second on that list). Considering that Ben Roethlisberger was Brown's quarterback on only 129 of his 146 targets to date, after Roethlisberger delivered Brown all of his 180 targets in 2014, Brown's production looks all the more exceptional.
Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins finished second to Newton among quarterbacks with 35 fantasy points Sunday, setting a career high. Interestingly, Cousins' 35 fantasy points were one more than Robert Griffin III has ever scored in a single game (34, 2012 Week 6).
Cousins' tight end, Jordan Reed, paced his position with 20 fantasy points, a career high for Reed. Five of Reed's best single-game fantasy efforts in his career have occurred in 2015.
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater set a personal best with 32 fantasy points, surpassing his 22 scored in Week 4 of 2014, which was also his first career NFL start. His big day increased his season total to 175 fantasy points, exceeding his rookie-year total of 169. Still, it's difficult to look at Bridgewater's sophomore NFL campaign as anything but a disappointment. Even with his performance Sunday, his per-game average is 12.5 fantasy points, beneath his 13.0 average as a rookie. At no point this season, in fact, has Bridgewater's per-game average exceeded his 2014 number.
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson scored 25 fantasy points, sixth best among quarterbacks (entering Monday), giving him a fifth consecutive week with at least that many. Following up on last week's note on Wilson's impressive recent run, Steve Young (six straight, Weeks 1-7 of 1998) is the only NFL quarterback since 1960 with a lengthier such streak.
San Diego Chargers running back Danny Woodhead scored 30 fantasy points and 36 in PPR formats, both breaking his previous career highs of 21 and 32, set just eight weeks earlier. Woodhead now has four games of at least 20 PPR fantasy points this season; he had five total entering the 2015 season.
Lost in the frenzy surrounding Doug Baldwin's Weeks 12-15 outburst is the fact that Buffalo Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins hasn't been that much less productive. Watkins' 23 fantasy points Sunday were fourth most at his position, and gave him 80 during the past four weeks combined. Only Baldwin (95) and Beckham (81) have scored more during that span.
For the third consecutive week, Panthers wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. scored at least 20 fantasy points; he scored exactly 20 Sunday. He joined Baldwin (Weeks 12-14) and Beckham (Weeks 12-14) as the only wide receivers this season to have a streak at least that long.
Incidentally, all three of Ginn's best single-game efforts in his career have occurred in the past three weeks (24 in Week 14, 20 in Week 13).