Joe Flacco: The Best Quarterback in the NFL

The Walking Unibrow was terrible in Week 5; now's he on top of the world. What gives?

Okay, okay, okay. Sensationalist headline, yet again! Guilty as charged.

You clicked on it though, and now you're here. I'm sorry for the ruse. I apologize to you. And you know who else I owe an apology to? Joe Flacco. I've ripped him to shreds countlessly throughout the years, for his contract, his eyebrows, his poor vocabulary, what I understand to be a rather robust Beanie Baby collection - everything. And what does he go and do? He goes ahead and puts up on the best passing performances of the decade, shutting me up for at least, two paragraphs! You heard it here first - Joe Flacco, #5 on the field but #1 in your hearts and in the books - at least for this week.

For those of you new to these rankings, we're using NEP, or Net Expected Points, which is a defense-adjusted calculation on a player's impact on his team's ability to score points. For example, if you rush for two yards on a 3rd-and-1, you've extended the drive and helped your team's scoring chances; a loss of one would end the drive and hurt those chances. It's not some crap where some fat guy in a room looks at tape and assigns it an arbitrary number to make you think it's quantitative; no, it's math, it's real, and my word, it's beautiful.


Player Opp NEP
Joe Flacco vs. TB +29.49
Tom Brady vs. BUF +25.85
Cam Newton at WAS +22.65
Teddy Bridgewater vs. DET -17.30
Eli Manning at PHI -10.93
Matthew Stafford at MIN -8.61

Just a single week after putting up the worst NEP of the week against the Colts, Joe Flacco bounces back and puts up our top quarterback NEP of the year, racking an absurd +29.49. Just to put that into context: sub out an average quarterback into Joe Flacco's place, and that passer generates nearly 30 fewer points. That's downright insane.

As good as Joe was, Tom Brady (+25.85) was perhaps even more impressive, given he was on the road and against a much tougher opponent in Buffalo. Cam Newton (+22.65) finishes in third on the strength of a fantastic rushing performance, the best rushing performance from any quarterback this year. I guess his ribs are fine, after all. But Cam, while we're here, have you seen my laptop?

On the flip side, we feel pretty strongly that good things are ahead for Teddy Bridgewater, but Week 6 certainly wasn't one to put in his personal highlight reel, as he looked like Neil O'Donnell with vertigo. Turnovers are perhaps the biggest factor that goes into NEP, and backbreaking ones when your team is on the move make them doubly bad. The runners-up Eli Manning and Matthew Stafford were shaky, but neither were truly awful like Teddy; they deserve notice but sadly, the true damnation belongs solely to the rookie for now. Bury your sorrows in some Old Style, buddy.

Running Backs

Player Opp NEP
Matt Forte at ATL +10.51
LeSean McCoy vs. NYG +4.53
Arian Foster vs. IND +4.43
Carlos Hyde at STL -8.63
Frank Gore at STL -6.06
C.J. Spiller vs. NE -5.35

Let's take a minute to talk about Matt Forte (+10.51), who is, quite obviously, a complete monster. Not only was he twice the NEP of any other running back of the week, he also has 22 receptions over the past two games, more than every receiver not named Jordy Nelson. That's just crazy.

Elsewhere, it's fantastic to see LeSean McCoy (+4.53) bouncing back - you knew it was only a matter of time - and Arian Foster (+4.43), what else can you say other than when he's healthy, he's more effective week-in and week-out than anyone else in the league. The rub, of course, is that his health is always one of the biggest ifs in the game; almost as big as whether or not Ryan Fitzpatrick can continue to impersonate an actual NFL quarterback.

On the negative, C.J. Spiller (-5.35) continues his descent into the Arena League, which is sad to see because frankly it's difficult to imagine how someone with his talent can continue to be misused so badly. Like every Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher between 1994-2005, maybe he just needs a change of scenery; may I suggest San Francisco? The 49ers sported the two worst running back performers of the weekend in Frank "Slow" Gore (-6.06) and Carlos "Slower" Hyde (-8.63), although it's not entirely their fault: the coaching staff decided to run them into a wall on multiple 3rd- and 4th-and-short plays, and those turnovers are absolute NEP killers. Still, do you remember either one of them having anything close to a good play in that game? They were black holes, an all-encompassing vacuum that sucked out fantasy points and running efficiency like yours truly at a new Chik-Fil-A opening.

Wide Recivers/Tight Ends

Player Opp NEP
T.Y. Hilton at HOU +19.81
Andre Holmes vs. SD +13.43
Brandon LaFell at BUF +12.69
Percy Harvin vs. DAL -3.57
Andre Roberts at ARI -3.00
John Carlson vs. DAL -1.83

Retrospectively, T.Y. Hilton (+19.81) was probably amongst the easiest breakouts to call. He was leading his team in targets, but was only fourth in actual receptions. His team had thrown a ton of touchdowns, but he had none. Eventually, the levee was going to break and it did big time in Week 6 as he carved up the Texans defense something fierce. Welcome back to the show, kid. Free hint: you know who else fits that profile? Vincent Jackson. Just saying.

Beyond Hilton, two surprises: Andre Holmes (+13.43) and Brandon LaFell (+12.69). The former is an athletic freak who may, just may, eventually emerge as the rapidly-improving Derek Carr's non-union Dez Bryant equivalent while the latter is, well, a fluke that mostly happened because a long touchdown at the end. Honesty, right? He's the third option in a nice offense, but come on - he was cut by a team that preferred to have Jerricho Cotchery.

On the downside, receivers really rack up the NEP on drops, turnovers, and poor rushing; just call Percy Harvin a triple threat! Beyond that, Andre Roberts takes the silver medal of ignominy for his back-breaking fumble and John Carlson for repeated failures on third-down conversions. Wow, that Arizona-Washington tilt was a mess, wasn't it? Can't they both lose?

Well, that's it for this week! Hope you enjoyed your free lesson in abstract math! Feel free to reach out to me any time on Twitter and be sure to share the article with your friends and loved ones - you'll turn me into a loved one for doing it.