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Run 'N' Shoot: The greatest single season in sports history?

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.

Peyton Manning already has the single-season record for passing TDs, he's going to win his fifth MVP (it should be unanimous, frankly), and he's probably going to break the yardage record on Sunday, too. While others in the media argue others are MVP candidates, I wonder if Peyton is having the greatest single-season performance in sports history. Yes, I said the greatest single-season performance in sports history.

He's not there yet, don't get me wrong. But if the Broncos win the Super Bowl (if they do, Peyton will be the MVP of that, too), isn't Manning in that conversation? Now that Von Miller is out for the year, if Denver takes home the Lombardi, it will be for one reason - Peyton. We're talking about a team that would be 5-11 without Peyton but is three wins away from hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.

What single-season performance in NFL history could possibly compare to an MVP, Super Bowl MVP, all-time, single-season records for touchdowns and yards, and single-handedly carrying your team to a title?

In 1999, Kurt Warner was regular season and Super Bowl MVP as the "greatest show on turf" set various scoring records, but that team had Marshall Faulk and Warner's numbers, while great, aren't quite on Peyton's 2013 level.
In 1994, Steve Young was regular season and Super Bowl MVP, had a 112.8 QB rating, and the Niners blew through the playoffs, but that Niners team was absolutely stacked (Jerry Rice, Deion Sanders, etc.).

If Peyton can take home this year's title, I'd have to go to other sports for a viable comparison:

In the '95-'96 NBA season, Michael Jordan was regular season MVP, Finals MVP, and his Chicago Bulls went 72-10.
In the '86-'87 NHL season, Wayne Gretsky was regular season MVP, had 183 points (next closest had 108), and won the Stanley Cup.
In 2000, Tiger Woods won three majors among his nine tournaments, including the British Open by 8 strokes and the US Open by 15.
In 1988, Steffi Graf won the Grand Slam (including a double-bagel in the French Open finals), an Olympic gold medal, and lost just three matches.
In 1988, Orel Hershiser won the Cy Young (23 wins, 59 consecutive scoreless innings), the NLCS MVP, World Series MVP, and a Gold Glove.
In the '11-12 and '12-'13 NBA seasons, LeBron James was regular season MVP and Finals MVP.

So enjoy these next few weeks, folks. You might just be watching the greatest, single-season performance ever.

Here is an early look at my 2014 fantasy rankings:

1. Peyton Manning. Age is the only concern.
2. Aaron Rodgers. Jordy, Cobb, and Lacy are a fantastic trio of weapons.
3. Drew Brees. Needs someone besides Graham to emerge in passing game.
4. Nick Foles. A throwback to yesteryear, the rare young QB who gets it done without scrambling.
5. Philip Rivers. Keenan Allen and Ladarius Green should only be better in 2014.
6. Cam Newton. Desperately needs a playmaking WR, but the rushing TDs preserve his ceiling.
7. Matt Ryan. Return by Julio, bad defense could make 2014 Falcons a fantasy carnival.
8. Tom Brady. Will Gronk come back healthy? Will the young WRs improve? So many questions.
9. Andrew Luck. A shame Indy doesn't have that first-round draft pick to use on a top-flight WR.
10. Matthew Stafford. Maybe a new coach can elevate Stafford like McCoy did for Rivers in 2013.
11. Russell Wilson. His team's defense limits his volume/ceiling, despite the rushing ability.
12. Colin Kaepernick. See Wilson.
13. Andy Dalton. Penchant for huge weeks, but can he get more consistent?
14. Jay Cutler. The quartet of Marshall, Jeffery, Forte and Bennett is so good; why can't Cutler be a fantasy monster?
15. Tony Romo. Was fine in 2013, but the Dallas defense was so bad, why didn't he explode?

Running backs:
1. Jamaal Charles. Remember when Charles was splitting carries with an old Thomas Jones?
2. LeSean McCoy. Arguably the best combination of ceiling and floor on the board.
3. Eddie Lacy. Has #1 overall upside.
4. Matt Forte. PPR monster, let's hope Bears see what Andy Reid did with Charles.
5. Adrian Peterson. Age, usage starting to become a factor.
6. Doug Martin. Big rebound coming.
7. Marshawn Lynch. Vicious running style; may not age gracefully.
8. Zac Stacy. Won't fly under the radar again in 2014.
9. Alfred Morris. Played better in 2013 than the touchdown total suggests; needs Redskins D to improve.
10. Reggie Bush. Do you mind drafting players who require a handcuff (Joique Bell)?
11. LeVeon Bell. Love the usage and receiving ability, but 3.4 YPC is a problem.
12. Arian Foster. Needs fewer commercials, more time taking care of his body.
13. Giovani Bernard. Law Firm, go away.
14. Ryan Mathews. Quietly had a solid 2013.
15. Knowshon Moreno. How long can he hold off Montee Ball?
16. Shane Vereen. Elevates the whole Patriots offense; Brady was a different player with Vereen in the lineup.
17. Stevan Ridley. Few people hate anything in life as much as Bill Belichick hates fumbling.
18. Chris Johnson. No longer CJ2K, but oddly dependable from a health standpoint.
19. Montee Ball. Massive upside if he can unseat Moreno.
20. Andre Ellington. Gio-lite. Rashard Mendenhall should be banished to the same island as Green-Ellis.
21. Ben Tate. Where will he land? Houston seems unlikely.
22. David Wilson. Toughest player on the board to rank; may deserve much lower spot.
23. CJ Spiller. Post-hype sleeper potential; Fred Jackson is 32.
24. Steven Jackson. Not every pick can be sexy.
25. Rashad Jennings. Fantasy owners have rid themselves of their DMC habit. Have the Raiders?

Wide Receivers:
1. Calvin Johnson. Some youngsters are threatening, but Megatron still the best.
2. AJ Green. Don't overthink this. Stud two straight years.
3. Dez Bryant. Felt like 2013 was his healthy floor; coaching change couldn't hurt.
4. Demaryius Thomas. In Peyton we trust.
5. Josh Gordon. Massive potential, but scary QB situation.
6. Julio Jones. Higher if proves he's back to normal.
7. Jordy Nelson. Was my #2 WR right before Rodgers got hurt.
8. Pierre Garcon. YAC monster.
9. Alshon Jeffery. Can he develop a rapport with Cutler? Can he handle more defensive attention?
10. Brandon Marshall. Cutler's favorite, but Jeffery is going to get his.
11. Vincent Jackson. Mike Glennon should improve.
12. Antonio Brown. Was 2013 his ceiling? Hard to ask for more given his size.
13. Keenan Allen. Imagine if SD actually threw to him more (just 96 targets; most top WRs have around 150).
14. Randall Cobb. Injuries can happen to anyone, but Cobb's body type makes him more susceptible than most.
15. DeSean Jackson. Maybe that 2009 season (1,167 yards, 9 TDs) wasn't his ceiling after all.
16. Michael Crabtree. Was fantastic with Kaepernick in 2012.
17. Andre Johnson. Can we please get this man a quarterback before he retires (or his body breaks down again)?
18. Eric Decker. No shame in being the second receiver on this Denver offense.
19. Roddy White. Finally looked like the pre-2013 version in Week 16.
20. Larry Fitzgerald. Does he still deserve to be higher than Michael Floyd?
21. Kendall Wright. Improving at a faster pace than Jake Locker, limited upside in non-PPR.
22. Torrey Smith. Showed some growth in 2013 but still just 4 goal line targets.
23. Wes Welker. Concussion issues are now, officially, a worry.
24. Percy Harvin. Is the hip problem chronic?
25. Cordarelle Patterson. Everyone's favorite sleeper WR heading into 2014.
26. Victor Cruz. Forgot how to salsa.
27. Michael Floyd. Could switch spots with Fitzgerald without much argument.
28. Mike Wallace. Quietly, Tannehill improved in 2013.
29. Reggie Wayne. Will he ever be the same? Luck sure hopes so.
30. Cecil Shorts. Blackmon suspension opened the door, but Shorts didn't walk through.

Tight Ends:
1. Jimmy Graham. TE doesn't look so deep anymore; should be top five overall.
2. Rob Gronkowski. Only Aaron Hernandez had a tougher 2013.
3. Julius Thomas. Solid bet for another double-digit TDs.
4. Vernon Davis. 16.4 YPR, 10 goal line targets, just needs more chances.
5. Dennis Pitta. Joe Flacco really missed Pitta in 2013.
6. Jason Witten. Ageless wonder.
7. Jordan Cameron. Production varied wildly based on QB play.
8. Martellus Bennett. Have to love how Chicago only has four guys it throws to.
9. Greg Olsen. Needs a top WR to help open up the middle of the field.
10. Jordan Reed. Concussion issues masked mid-year breakout.
11. Antonio Gates. Is he still the best tight end on his own team?
12. Ladarius Green. The industry is going to hype Green like mad. How high will he go as a result?
13. Zach Ertz. Can he break out, shake off the incumbent in his second year?
14. Tyler Eifert. See Ertz.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, all.