The Fantasy Football Historian: Invincible Lineups
It’s a great feeling to watch one of your fantasy starters post a massive stat line. An even greater feeling is watching the stars – literally – align, when multiple players on your roster absolutely ‘go off’.
In this article, I’ll look at some of the notable ‘Invincible Lineups‘ since 1999. In this context, ‘invincible’ is defined as the greatest possible combination for a given week. That is, we take the weekly overall QB1, the weekly overall RB1, and RB2, etc., and calculate how many points the ‘perfect’ roster would score.
By definition, this roster is invincible because it can’t be beaten: it represents the highest achievable point total in a given week. Another way to think about it is a Best Ball lineup where the entire league is rostered!
Data, as usual, comes from nflfastR. All scoring is Half-PPR, and a lineup consists of one QB, two RBs and WRs, and one TE. Without further ado, let’s count down the top-scoring lineups of the past two decades.
5. Week 3 2007: 215.34 points
QB- Donovan McNabb: 29.94
RB1- Bryan Westbrook: 42.6
RB2- Ronnie Brown: 42.1
WR1- Kevin Curtis 45.6
WR2- Anquan Boldin 37.1
TE- Jason Witten 18.0
The Philadelphia Eagles blew out the Detroit Lions 51-26 this week and delivered an absolutely leviathan stack (you’ll notice a few stacks on this list: after all, stacking is a boom/bust technique). McNabb tossed a touchdown to Bryan Westbrook and three more to Kevin Curtis, who delivered the ninth-best WR performance since ’99 in PPR scoring. Westbrook added another two scores on the ground, and all three Eagles found their way into the invincible lineup.
For the football aficionados among you, this was not the famous ‘Wildcat Game‘ where Ronnie Brown torched the New England Patriots for four rushing touchdowns and one passing score. In fact, that masterpiece came exactly a year later in Week 3 of the 2008 season.
4. Week 4 2002: 216.62 points
QB- Trent Green: 37.92
RB1- Shaun Alexander: 54.6
RB2- LaDainian Tomlinson 37.7
WR1- Donald Driver 25.7
WR2- Corey Bradford 25.2
TE- Tony Gonzalez: 35.5
This lineup was led by Shaun Alexander, who notched five touchdowns en route to one of the single greatest fantasy performances of all time. Meanwhile, previewing things to come, a young LaDainian Tomlinson raced for 217 yards in his sophomore season.
Unfortunately, the top wideouts of this week left us somewhat wanting: Donald Driver and Corey Bradford together scored 50.9 points, by far the lowest on this list for a wide receiver pair. With a better showing from the pass-catchers, this week could have been the all-time greatest!
3. Week 8 2014: 217.08 points
Big Ben carried this lineup to glory, throwing for over 500 yards and finding the end zone six times. Perhaps surprisingly, Gronk was the second-highest scorer in this lineup, hauling in three touchdowns from Tom Brady during his 12-TD 2014 campaign.
2. Week 9 2013: 218.24 points
This week, Nick Foles tied the all-time record for passing touchdowns in a single game (seven). To this day, he remains one of eight quarterbacks to hold this distinction. Andre Johnson helped to carry the load with 229 receiving yards and three scores of his own.
A surprise member of this lineup is RB1 Zac Stacy, who scored two of his nine career touchdowns this week for the St. Louis Rams.
1. Week 5 2019: 232.34 points
Take a moment to compare this point total to the rest of the lineups: this is the top-scoring week and it’s not even close. There’s a 14.1 point difference between this week and the second place week, and yet there’s just a 2.9 point gap between the second place week and the fifth-place week!
What happened? For starters, Deshaun Watson and Will ‘The Flying V’ Fuller posted the greatest QB/WR stack of the past two decades. Fuller had 217 receiving yards and three touchdowns, good enough for the fourth-best WR PPR performance of the past 20 years. Since Fuller was not a highly touted WR in 2019, this stack was actually very easy to roster and likely won the day for many fantasy managers.
A personal note: I planned to start Will Fuller V in my WR3 slot this week but forgot to set my lineup in time. I still won, largely because I was fortunate enough to roster Michael Thomas. From there on out, though, I set (loud) reminders on my phone to make sure that all of my lineups were set on Sunday. What’s more, I ended up ‘chasing the dragon’ with Fuller for the rest of the season, only to see him return to the end zone zero times.
Anyways, outside of this stack, Aaron Jones had a typical ‘boom’ game and CMC was marching towards his record-breaking 2019 campaign. The funniest part about this lineup is that George Kittle, the top-scoring TE on the week, only delivered 17.8 points. That’s the lowest amount in the Top 5 of Invincible Lineups, meaning that this week could have been even better if tight ends took care of business.
Now that we’ve reviewed the ‘honor roll’, let’s look at some of the less enlightening performances in this same paradigm. For example, consider the lowest scoring invincible lineup:
Week 5 2006: 120.46 points
QB- Donovan McNabb: 26.26 points
RB1- Larry Johnson: 21.2 points
RB2- Noah Herron 21.1 points
WR1- Lee Evans 19.9 points
WR2- Joey Galloway: 19.0 points
TE- Antonio Gates 13.0 points
All of these players were the top-scorers positionally this week, and yet only one (McNabb) breached 25 points. This must have been a pretty boring week in the fantasy world!
On the other side of the coin, the worst fantasy performance since 1999 goes to quarterback Jon Kitna. The Seattle Seahawks signal-caller kicked off the new millennium against Miami in an unpleasant way, scoring a whopping -7.34 points during Week 1 of the 2000 season. Kitna threw for 54 yards, ran for 5 yards, and turned the ball over five times (4 INTs, one fumble lost). The Dolphins, as one might guess, shut out the Hawks 23-0.
Perhaps surprisingly, NFL legend Greg Olsen owns the worst TE performance of the past 20 years with -2.3 points in Week 2 of the 2008 season. Greg had just two catches for seven yards…and two lost fumbles.
Hopefully, you enjoyed these theoretical fantasy football exercises. Stay tuned for the next edition in the Fantasy Historian series, where I will take a look at how NFL teams have impacted the fantasy landscape over the past few decades.
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