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Run 'N' Shoot: The Non-QB MVP

Mark Stopa

Mark Stopa has been sharing his fantasy insights for Rotowire since 2007. Mark is the 2010 and 2012 Staff Picks champion (eat your heart out, Chris Liss) and won Rotowire's 14-team Staff League II in consecutive seasons. He roots for the Bills and has season tickets on the second row, press level to the Rays.

If you lost your Week 15 matchup to Jamaal Charles, you have no room to complain. Charles is a great player - the likely #1 overall pick in 2014 drafts - and if your opponent had Charles, then his team was better than yours. Sorry, but it's that simple. In fact, with Calvin Johnson falling on his face in a huge, prime-time game for the Lions, one can argue Charles has been the NFL's most valuable non-QB in 2013.

If you lost to Matt Asiata or one of the handful of waiver-wire quarterbacks who outscored Peyton Manning in Week 15 (Matt Cassel, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Tannehill, Kirk Cousins, or Alex Smith), then that's different. That's the cold, hard reality of fantasy football - the best teams often go home early.

Did you suffer a bad beat? Or a fortunate win? Feel free to share in the comments, but if you're whining, don't look for sympathy from me. I doubt you'll beat my hard-luck story. I'll spare you the details - I'm sure we'll mention it in Breakfast Table.

Vikings/Eagles was crazy in so many ways. How about Asiata getting 30 carries while LeSean McCoy got just 8? Or the Vikings scoring 48 points? We tend to think of the Vikings as a low-scoring team - easy to do when we remember backup Joe Webb unable to move the offense in last year's playoffs. This year's team has outscored 24 NFL teams, though, including the Saints. Yes, Minny has 363 points, New Orleans just 359. For Vikings fans, the improvement at backup quarterback is a year too late.

Speaking of backups, Matt Flynn's performance the last two weeks is as surprising as it gets. Remember, Flynn was cut by two QB-starved teams (Raiders, Bills) this season and was unemployed before Rodgers got hurt,. Yet here Flynn is, leading a 23-point comeback by throwing four second-half touchdowns in a must-win game. Flynn has done something Aaron Rodgers never could, too - turn Andrew Quarless into a fantasy-viable tight end. Oddly, Week 15 marked the second straight game Quarless went 6-66-1, an even stranger coincidence when you realize Andrew has "Gods Gifts" tattoed on the back of his arms.

If Week 15 taught us anything, it's that all fantasy leagues should be 2-QB leagues. Reward those owners smart enough to start Cassel, Fitzpatrick, Tannehill, Cousins, or Smith. Bigger starting lineups reward smarter players.

Justin Tucker is awesome. If you need an explanation, you should watch more post-game interviews.

The Chiefs have scored 38, 28, 45, and 56 points the last four weeks, and they're 11-1 against everyone except the Broncos. Perhaps just by default, they're moving up my list of contenders in the AFC. Other than Denver, who do you prefer? The Patriots defense is getting lit up every week, and with Rob Gronkowski out, Tom Brady has to play great for them to win games. Brady admitted it this week - their margin for error is so small. The Bengals are an enigma, the Colts a fraud, and the Dolphins are a poor man's Bengals.

The NFC West is as loaded as the AFC is weak. The NFC West went 4-0 in Week 15 and outscored their opponents by 56 points. That's the best division in football by any measure, but here are a few of my favorites. ... The combined point differential of the four NFC West teams is +339; no other division is above +237. The Cardinals are probably the third-best team in that division, but they're 8-2 outside the NFC West (the only losses coming in NO and in Philly by 3). Even the Rams are 5-4 against non-NFC West teams. With the Seahawks and 49ers set up with franchise quarterbacks for the foreseeable future, it's not a good time to be a Rams or Cardinals fan.

I'm not sure which NFC team is most likely to win in Seattle, but it's not the Saints. Have ever seen a "good" team that's so bad on the road?

Right now, gun to head, who would you pick to have a better NFL career, Robert Griffin III or Kirk Cousins? Considering the injury factor, I'd go Cousins. Griffin probably has a higher ceiling, but Cousins seems like a safer bet to still be in the NFL in ten years.

My best explanation for Miami emerging as an AFC contender? The surprising play of Ryan Tannehill. Check out this comparison:

Player A: 4,049 yards, 60.9%, 7.0 YPA, 23 TDs, 10 INTs, 88.1
Player B: 3,627 yards, 62.4%, 7.0 YPA, 23 TDs, 14 INTs, 86.6
Player C: 3,299 yards, 58.7%, 6.7 YPA, 22 TDs, 9 INTs, 85.2

One of these is Tannehill. One is Tom Brady. One is Andrew Luck. Can you tell who's who? Probably not, and that's the point. Tannehill still takes too many sacks - his 51 sacks are eight more than anyone else - but he's made strides this season.

Have you seen the league-leaders in YPA (minimum 90 attempts)? Such a bizarre list:

Nick Foles, 9.0
Aaron Rodgers, 8.8
Michael Vick, 8.6
Russell Wilson, 8.6
Philip Rivers, 8.4
Peyton Manning, 8.3
Josh McCown, 8.2
Scott Tolzien, 8.0
Drew Brees, 7.8
Matt Cassel, 7.8
Matt McGloin, 7.7

Rodgers, Peyton, and Brees are obvious. Foles, Wilson, and Rivers are semi-obvious. But Vick, McCown, Tolzien, Cassel, and McGloin?

Seeing McCown on this list, but not Jay Cutler, made me want to put their stats side-by-side.

McCown: 7 games, 1,809 yards, 66.8%, 8.2 YPA, 13 TDs, 1 INT
Cutler: 9 games, 2,173 yards, 63.9%, 7.3 YPA, 16 TDs, 10 INT

In recent years, I've begun to accept the school of thought that turnovers are random. Yes, a few factors make them more likely (playing from behind, bad weather, bad line, QB without pocket awareness), but turnovers are still, by and large, random. With that in mind, here are some interesting outliers looking at 2013 turnover differential:

Chiefs +21. Seattle (+16) is the only other team above +11. (This throws a bucket of cold water on my pro-Chiefs argument.)
Lions -13. If the Lions miss the playoffs, they can blame this.
Broncos -3. Denver leads the NFL in fumbles lost with 16, a huge number considering their quarterback gets hit less than anyone QB in the NFL. If this luck normalizes in the playoffs, look out.

Colin Kaepernick was a huge fantasy disappointment in 2013, but in real life, his season hasn't been okay. The stats look bad because of the volume - just 361 passes, just 61 more than Ryan Fitzpatrick (who didn't play in five games). The ratios, though, aren't that bad - 7.5 YPA, 88.8 Rating - and he has just 8 INTs, the same as Russell Wilson.

Karma rewards the courageous. The Rams kicked a surprise onside kick up 14-0, recovered, kicked a field goal on the ensuing drive, and were never seriously challenged again. There's little I like more in an NFL game than a surprise onside kick.

Follow me on Twitter, @MarkStopa