When fantasy owners start preparing for 2015, they’ll be reflecting mainly on season-long stats. But before the individual games that provide for these stats get swept up in the undertow, let’s take one more opportunity to appreciate the 10 best single-game fantasy performances of the 2014 season.
Sixes wild for Ben Roethlisberger in Weeks 8 and 9
Roethlisberger headed into the Steelers’ Week 8 game against the Colts outside of the top 10 at the quarterback position. He had thrown for a total of 10 touchdowns in his team’s first seven games, a respectable, but not exactly noteworthy, total. That would all change in Week 8. Roethlisberger racked up 522 yards and six touchdowns in Pittsburgh’s 51-34 win over Indianapolis, good for 44.8 points in standard-scoring leagues. Unfortunately, Roethlisberger’s slow start to the season meant the vast majority of his owners had him on the bench during that performance. They hopefully rode his hot hand the following week he threw for 340 yards and six more scores. Roethlisberger set an NFL record for touchdowns in back-to-back games, and gave his owners more than 80 points in just two weeks. Those games would inflate Roethlisberger’s season-long numbers all year, but they were also two of the highest quarterback scores of 2014.
Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski carve up the Bears in Week 8
By time the then-surging Patriots hosted the then-reeling Bears in Week 8, they had put their early-season offensive woes to rest. They capped off their impressive second quarter of the season by throttling the Bears, 51-23. Brady led the way, completing 30 of his 35 pass attempts for 354 yards, 10.11 yards per attempt and five touchdowns. He nearly had a perfect quarterback rating and gave his fantasy owners a whopping 34.2 points. The Patriots’ return to dominance coincided with their unleashing of a fully healthy Gronk, and the Bears felt his wrath on this particular Sunday. He caught all nine of his targets for 149 yards and three of Brady’s touchdowns. The 32.9 points he put up in Week 8 were the most for a tight end in an individual game in 2014.
Jonas Gray enjoys his 15 minutes in Week 11
Neither Brady nor Gronk posted the single-biggest fantasy performance for the Patriots this season. That honor belonged to Gray, who happened to ride the choice filly on Bill Belichick’s running back carousel for one week. After Stevan Ridley suffered a season-ending knee injury, the Patriots’ backfield was thrown into flux. Shane Vereen has never been a run-first back, and rookie James White failed to catch on this year. In Week 11, the Patriots turned to Gray, the Notre Dame product who bounced around a few practice squads before landing with the Patriots this year. He was on their practice squad just six days before taking over as the primary back in New England’s showdown with Indianapolis. Gray lifted the Patriots to a huge win over a fellow first place team, carrying the ball 37 times for 201 yards and four touchdowns, which translates to 44.1 points in standard-scoring leagues. That was the highest individual score for a running back in standard formats this year.
Marshawn Lynch deploys Beast Mode against the Giants in Week 10
Despite a seemingly high floor, Lynch slipped to the end of the first round, or even beginning of the second round, in average drafts back in August. That turned out to be a mistake, as Lynch finished the season as the No. 3 back in standard formats, trailing only DeMarco Murray and Le’Veon Bell. In a season of strong individual outputs, Lynch had his best game just about at the halfway point in an easy win over the Giants. He ran for 140 yards and four touchdowns on 21 carries, and added 23 yards through the air. All told, Lynch piled up 40.3 points for his owners. It was the highest score among running backs for seven days, until Gray knocked him from the top of the mountain, and it would end up as the third-best fantasy game for a back all season.
Le’Veon Bell kicks off a huge playoff run in Week 14
Bell was the true breakout star of the 2014 season. The second-year player out of Michigan State cut 20 pounds during the offseason, and showed an explosiveness that wasn’t present in his rookie year. Bell finished the season as fantasy’s No. 2 back, but he was arguably the most valuable player after putting together a dominant three-week stretch in the playoffs. It all started Week 14, when he single-handedly dismantled the Bengals. Bell ran for 185 yards and two scores on 26 carries in the win. He also caught six passes for 50 yards and another touchdown, giving him 41.5 fantasy points in standard-scoring leagues. It was his third straight game with at least 200 yards from scrimmage, which put him in a club whose only other member is Walter Payton.
Demaryius Thomas gets on track in Week 5
It seems like a lifetime ago when Thomas was making his owners nervous after starting the season with just 13 catches for 141 yards and one touchdown in three games. He came out of Denver’s Week 4 bye with guns blazing, hauling in eight balls for 226 yards and two touchdowns. The 34.6-point performance was the single best game for a receiver this year. Thomas would go on to post seven straight 100-yard games, and finish the season with 111 receptions for 1,619 yards and 11 touchdowns. He was the No. 4 receiver in standard fantasy leagues this season, and has been a top-five receiver in all three of his seasons playing with Peyton Manning. That makes him an extremely bankable commodity heading into 2015.
Odell Beckham Jr. caps off a monster rookie season in Week 15
Beckham was the gem of a star-studded rookie wide receiver class, finishing the season as the No. 5 fantasy receiver. That obscures the fact that he only played 12 games after missing the first month of the season with a hamstring injury. On a points-per-game basis, the rookie out of LSU blew away the field, averaging 17 points in a typical contest. Antonio Brown, who led all receivers in fantasy points, averaged 15.3 points per game. Had Beckham played the same amount of games as Brown, and kept up his pace, he would have outscored Brown by 27 points. He did his best work in Week 15, the fantasy semifinals, catching 12 passes for 143 yards and three touchdowns. That’s good for 32.3 points in standard-scoring leagues. Beckham will likely be drafted as a top-five receiver next season.
Russell Wilson does what only he can do in Weeks 5, 7 and 16
Four of the top five fantasy quarterbacks of 2014 were expected to be there when the season began -- Andrew Luck and Aaron Rodgers were the top two, while Peyton Manning finished fourth and Drew Brees checked in fifth. The No. 3 quarterback was Wilson, who was just outside the top 10 in average draft position. Wilson had one of the best rushing seasons for a quarterback in NFL history, running for a total of 849 yards and six touchdowns on 118 carries. Unsurprisingly, he was at his fantasy best when he combined his ground and air production, which he did most spectacularly in Weeks 5, 7 and 16. Wilson led Seattle to a win over Washington in Week 5, throwing for 201 yards and two touchdowns, and running for a season-high 122 yards and one score. Two weeks later, he racked up 313 yards and two touchdowns through the air, and 106 yards and an additional score with his legs. He saved his best for championship week, however, when he threw for 339 yards, ran for 88, threw for a pair of scores, and ran for one more. That gave him and his owners 36.4 fantasy points in the most important week of the season. Don’t expect to get Wilson outside of the top-10 quarterbacks next year.
Andrew Luck cements his place among the elite in Week 3
Many fantasy pundits predicted a breakout season for Luck this year, and those who did were able to start patting themselves on the back pretty early on. Luck wasn’t the only quarterback to take advantage of the Jaguars in 2014, but he may have done so with the most vigor. He threw for 370 yards and four touchdowns in the Colts’ 44-17 win over the Jaguars in Week 3, piling up 32.3 points in standard-scoring leagues. It kicked off Luck’s eight-game streak with at least 300 yards, a threshold he reached 10 times on the season. Luck was the fifth quarterback by average draft position this year, but finished the season as the top scorer thanks to his ability to regularly put up games like he did against the Jaguars in the third week of the season.
Julio Jones lifts his owners to the semifinals in Week 14
It was an up-and-down season for Jones, who was a complete star in his good games, but seriously let his owners down in his bad ones. Luckily for his owners in the playoffs, he came through with his best game of the year in the opening round of the postseason. One week after setting a career high with 189 yards, he demolished that by catching 11 passes for 259 yards and a touchdown, which comes out to 31.9 points in standard-scoring leagues. He came up lame with a hip injury on his last reception of the game, and missed Week 15. His owners, unfortunately, weren’t able to carry over any of those excess points from the previous week. If he didn’t miss that game, he very well could have ended the season as the league leader in receiving yards. Still, that doesn’t take away from what he did in Week 14, when he had one of the few 30-plus point games for a receiver in 2014.