In a game the Carolina Panthers needed to lock up a first-round playoff bye, they were barely able to hold off the Atlanta Falcons Sunday, 21-20. The loss for the Falcons drops them to a disappointing 4-12, a horrific record in a season that was supposed to end in the playoffs, at least. The Panthers can now rest for a week and prepare for their eventual opponent, while the Falcons can try to forget a dismal 2013 and look toward 2014. Fantasy owners had some things to keep an eye on in Sunday's game, though:
It wasn't a special day for Newton by any means -- his 18 fantasy points marked only his seventh-highest total of the season -- but he set a season-high with 72 rushing yards. He also threw for 149 passing yards on 15 of 27 passing, throwing for two touchdowns and an interception. Even with his second-lowest passing total of the season, Newton's rushing ability kept his overall fantasy value at a fine level. ... If he hadn't lost a fumble, Williams' fantasy day would have been that much better; he had 33 rushing yards on 10 carries, plus 75 receiving yards on two catches. His fumble held him to eight fantasy points, but the running back continued to show that he can be a fine fantasy running back if he is the lone feature guy. It will be interesting to see if he (or Jonathan Stewart) leaves Carolina in the offseason. ... Olsen got back into fantasy owners' good graces after a bad game in Week 16, catching six passes for 42 yards and a touchdown. It was Olsen's first time with double-digit fantasy points since Week 11, though he had scored eight or more three times in five games since.
Tolbert continued his late-season slide in the game, with 29 rushing and 10 receiving yards in the game. If he's not scoring, he's not producing, and he only has one touchdown since Week 9. ... With Steve Smith out, no one in the Panthers' wide receiving corps did much. Ginn found the end zone, but had only two catches for 6 yards. A week after his game-winning catch against New Orleans, Hixon had two catches for 16 yards. And despite five targets, LaFell didn't catch a single pass.
Fantasy players who weren't worth it: Steven Jackson, Harry Douglas, Tony Gonzalez
From Week 8 to Week 15, Ryan didn't score more than 15 fantasy points in a game. He's now put up 17 in back-to-back outings, including Sunday, when he threw for 280 yards on 28 of 40 passing, with two touchdowns and an interception. It isn't the best game Ryan's ever had, but after such a long, awful stretch, it's a good sign. ... No one used Snelling, and rightly so, but with Jacquizz Rodgers sidelined with a concussion, the team's No. 3 running back ran for 36 yards on five carries, and added two catches for 15 yards and a touchdown. It was Snelling's biggest fantasy day since Week 3. ... White had only 10 fantasy points when he played hurt in Weeks 1-5, then missed three straight. He struggled immediately upon his return, but has now put up double-digit fantasy points three times in the last five games after his eight-catch, 91-yard, one-score game Sunday. It was a lost season for White and his fantasy owners, but the hot end-of-season production has to bode well for his 2014.
Nine fantasy points would have some running backs in the "worth it" category, but Jackson had played himself into the territory of greater expectations, putting up 11 or more in four of his last five. The running back had 41 rushing yards and 53 receiving yards Sunday, his second-highest yardage total of the season and his most since Week 1. ... White's return has rendered Douglas little more than an afterthought; the receiver hasn't put up double digits since Week 1, and hasn't topped Sunday's 58 yards since Week 13. ... There was every reason to think the team would highlight Gonzalez in his probable career-ender, but he finished up with only four targets. He caught all four, for 56 yards, but after touchdowns in four straight, this was a disappointing end to a great career.