Peyton Manning is without question one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time. If I need to win one game today and can have any quarterback I want to do it, he’s on my short list of three with Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers.
Having said that, if I’m planning on making the playoffs and winning my fantasy league, I’m not going to count on Peyton Manning to help my cause. Quite simply, his numbers just aren’t there during that time of the year.
I was going to give Manning the benefit of the doubt here, as his teams are usually gearing up for the actual NFL playoffs during the prime fantasy playoff weeks (14, 15 and 16). I was thinking that other elite quarterbacks would have the same problem. After doing a little research, I found out I was wrong.
We’ll start with 2012. Manning finished the year with 4659 passing yards and 37 touchdowns. That averages out to just over 291 yard and over 2.3 touchdowns per game. During weeks 14, 15 and 16 — all complete games by Manning — his averages dropped to 284 yards and 1.6 touchdowns. The yards didn’t concern me in 2012, but the touchdowns did.
I then looked at his numbers from 2009 and 2010, his last two full seasons as a starter before his neck surgery. In 2010, he averaged just over 293 yards a game. During the prime fantasy playoff weeks, his numbers dipped to just over 242. In 2009, his 281.25 yards per game average during the year fell to 240.
I then decided to run the 2012 numbers of some of the other elite quarterbacks in the league the same way. Matthew Stafford, not yet considered an elite quarterback on the field but a solid fantasy quarterback, had an increase of seven yards per game during the fantasy playoff weeks. Aaron Rodgers stayed about the same, while Tom Brady and Drew Brees both had increased production.
Many fantasy players, including myself, probably aren’t looking ahead to weeks 14, 15 and 16 when they draft. As such, their rankings of players heading into their drafts are only based on what they are going to do for you during the regular fantasy season. Don’t worry — the experts think this way as well. Despite Manning’s pattern of fantasy football playoff shortcomings, ESPN still has him ranked ahead of Matthew Stafford. They also list him above Matt Ryan, who outside of Brees and Brady may have been the most solid fantasy playoff quarterback in 2012 (297 yard and 3 touchdowns per game).
Further hurting Manning’s late-season fantasy value is the arrival of Montee Ball. Denver was 16th overall in rushing last season without a true workhorse back to help them close out games. Montee Ball is the dictionary definition of workhorse and will almost certainly cut into Manning’s passing attempts this season, especially given that Denver will be favored to have a lead in at least 75 percent of their games heading into the 4th quarter.
My point here is not to tear down a legend, but to get people to truly understand that what happens on the actual field of play and what goes on in your fantasy league, regardless of the format, really are two different things. I’m simply suggesting that if you want to win your fantasy football league, history shows that there are 5-6 options at the quarterback position right now who will be more valuable in your effort to make that happen than Peyton Manning would be.
BY J.P. SCOTT ON JUNE 2, 2013