This article is part of our Run 'N' Shoot series.
Who is the only one-loss team in the NFL? The Arizona Cardinals, of course!
Who is the starting quarterback of the team that leads the NFC in point differential? Mark Sanchez, of course!
If a Jets fan just awoke from a coma and was told what's happened so far in this 2014 NFL season - even just the part about Sanchez - he'd think you were pranking him. It would be too unbelievable. Yet here we are, with Sanchez on pace to start a home playoff game for the first place Philadelphia Eagles.
Ranking Sanchez in our fake game isn't easy, but that's why they pay me the big bucks, right? Seriously, Sanchez has an exceedingly low floor, but in a Chip Kelly offense with Pro Bowl talent all around him, Sanchez has QB1 upside. In standard leagues, where guys like Andy Dalton are available on waivers at any time if Sanchez falls on his face, I'd rather own Sanchez than Robert Griffin, Eli Manning, Colin Kaepernick, Joe Flacco, or Dalton, and I'd seriously contemplate him over Matt Ryan and Matthew Stafford. I'd particularly be aggressive on Sanchez if I were low in the standings and needed upside.
I don't care what the YPA police say - Andrew Luck is the most valuable asset in the NFL. Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson have arguments, too, but Luck is five years younger than Rodgers and is playing at a level we have yet to see from Wilson. Good for the Colts coaches for finally putting the ball in Luck's hands every game and throwing so often.
The Patriots resurgence is dominating AFC East headlines, but what in the name of Ryan Tannehill is going on in Miami? Since the Dolphins installed the read option, Tannehill looks like a different player. It's not just that the rushing yards (at least 47 each of the last four games) pad his fantasy stats - this guy looks like a different quarterback. Perhaps the most telling stat is one you'll never hear anyone talk about - sacks taken. In 2013, Tannehill took 58 sacks, 10 more than any other QB. This year, he's at just 17 through 8 games - basically in the middle of the pack. And any defense that can shut out the Chargers has my attention.
I'm rooting against the 49ers this year as much as anyone - remember, I bet $500 at 2:1 odds that they'd miss the playoffs - but they really got jobbed at the end of Sunday's game. Crabtree's catch at the goal line was a touchdown, Kaepernick clearly crossed the goal line on the ensuing rush, and even if Kaepernick was short of the line, he was down before the ball came out. How did San Francisco manage to have all three of those calls go against them? When the Niners are watching the playoffs from home, that ending is what they'll remember most.
Niners fans can't complain too much, though - not only did they just enjoy another Giants World Series win, they never should have been life or death with the Rams. The most telling stat there - St. Louis came into the game with 6 sacks all season, yet rang up 8 against the 49ers. Kaepernick has been an utter disappointment, for sure, but what's going on with that offensive line? It was so dominant as recently as last season, and yes they're down their center, but everyone else is healthy. If conspiracy theorists want to give legs to the Jim Harbaugh rumors affecting the locker room, an offensive line playing without intensity and passion would be a good place to start.
I am firm believer that it's virtually impossible for a non-QB to be the NFL MVP in today's game. Look at, say, DeMarco Murray. Fantastic player, great season, but he couldn't propel the Cowboys to a win at home in their biggest game of the year. Heck, he couldn't even get Dallas an offensive touchdown until the outcome was already decided. That said, if the Patriots run the table and finish as the #1 seed in the AFC, Rob Gronkowski needs to be in the MVP conversation. He won't (and shouldn't) win, but Gronk's return to health has almost single-handedly transformed the Patriots offense. Remember their crushing losses to the Dolphins and Chiefs? Or their being life and death with the Raiders at home? If I had to vote now, I'd call it Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning, Rob Gronkowski, Tom Brady. How can you put Brady above Gronk when Brady's resurgence was so obviously a byproduct of Gronk's return to health?
Allen Hurns has struggled with drops much of the season, but everything else about him screams "future star." He's big, fast, and made two terrific adjustments with the ball in flight on his two touchdowns on Sunday. Unquestionably, he's the Jaguars receiver I'd most want to own in dynasty.
When I'm assessing what happened to the Chargers, I'd start with the offensive line. They're not opening holes for the running game, and Philip Rivers was getting hit every time I glanced at that game on Channel 702 on Sunday. Expect Ryan Mathews to get his job back as soon as he's healthy (making him a top waiver target in many leagues), but it won't matter if the line play doesn't improve.
The Jets have allowed an NFL-high 11 passing touchdowns to opposing tight ends, but the Seahawks - yes, the Seahawks - are right on their heels with 10. For some perspective, 16 teams (half the league) have allowed 3 such TDs or fewer, and only 4 teams have allowed more than 6. So don't sit your fantasy tight end against the Seahawks - if anything, stream against them.
If Vontae Davis doesn't make the Pro Bowl, then I'll demand an investigation. Sure, a lot of other factors went into it, but Davis' Colts shut down the Bengals and Giants in the games he played, yet gave up 51 points to the Steelers when he left with a first-quarter injury.
Now 5-4 with a brutal finishing schedule (@Balt, Den, NE, @SF, @KC), the Chargers seem unlikely to get the 10 wins it will take to get an AFC Wild Card. So who will? The 5-3 Chiefs still have two games with the Raiders, so I think they'll get there. But you could say the same about the 5-win Dolphins, who still have 2 games left with the Jets, and that ignores the AFC North, which has 4 teams above .500 and gets their NFC games against the putrid NFC South. Basically, it's a fun time to be a football fan in the AFC, as nearly everyone still has realistic playoff aspirations.
How many lineups can you submit in the DraftKings Millionaire contest before it's deemed an unhealthy obsession? 40? 60? 80? Whatever the answer, I think I've gone "over." But that's OK - I'll be doing it again this week. Glancing at the salaries, it's crazy how many affordable studs there are, especially at quarterback and receiver. Who do you like the most?
Ben Roethlisberger gets the pathetic Jets secondary (24 passing TDs is 6 more than any other team) for just $7,500
Matt Ryan is a season-low $6,300 against the similarly inept Bucs secondary
Cam Newton is just $6,600 against the Eagles, who play in as many shootouts as anyone
Mark Sanchez is barely above the minimum - $5,400 - against a bad Panthers defense
The receiver options are ever crazier:
Antonio Brown is $8,700, but that's cheaper than last week and he gets the Jets
Jordy Nelson is just $7,600 - the cheapest he's been since Week 4, when he went 10-108-2 against these same Bears
Calvin Johnson is $7,100, and sure he's been hurt, but come on - it's Megatron.
Julio Jones is a season-low $6,600 against the Bucs (against whom he went 9-161-2 earlier this year). Seriously? How do you not play him in every single lineup?
Dez Bryant gets the Jaguars and is just $6,400. If Romo plays, how don't you roster Dez?
Brandon Marshall is healthy, coming off a bye, and a season-low $5,600 (he's often around 8K) in what's sure to be a shootout with the Packers
Kelvin Benjamin is a season-low $4,200 against the Eagles (28th to opposing fantasy WRs)
All of that said, the Millionaire winner will probably be someone who plays a handful of scrubs and also-rans.
Follow me on Twitter - @MarkStopa - and make sure you check out Breakfast Table later this week.