Peyton Manning hasn't lived up to his usual high standards during his first three starts for the Denver Broncos, but he's making progress. A matchup with the shaky Oakland Raiders secondary should help him prove he's still a top fantasy quarterback.
The former Indianapolis Colts superstar ranks 11th in quarterback scoring through three weeks. Coincidentally, he is one spot behind the man who replaced him in Indy in Andrew Luck. Carson Palmer, Andy Dalton and Ryan Fitzpatrick also rank ahead of him.
That's not what fantasy owners were expecting when they drafted Manning, even after his extended absence due to a neck injury. It also doesn't help that he probably caused a lot of teams to lose with his lackluster game on Monday night in Week 2.
That said, his overall play has improved and it should start translating to the fantasy world before long. He finally had some zip on his passes against the Houston Texans on Sunday, something that had been noticeably absent against the Atlanta Falcons the week before.
While Manning has never had an amazing arm, he always had a little extra power for certain situations. He didn't have that extra boost in the team's loss to the Falcons and it led to three interceptions, and a lot of questions about his ability.
To see him putting a little extra mustard on his throws was a terrific sign. His arm strength should continue to improve throughout the season.
One important thing to remember is that he's been going up against some stout defenses. The Texans, Falcons and Pittsburgh Steelers all rank in the top eight in passing yards allowed, which is not exactly an ideal schedule for a returning quarterback.
In contrast, the Raiders come in 26th at 265 yards per game. They have allowed five passing touchdowns without intercepting a single pass, and are one of just two teams that have yet to pick off a pass.
After facing three consecutive top-tier defenses, the passing lanes on Sunday should be a lot larger for No. 18. In five career games against the Raiders, Manning has 12 touchdowns and averages 252 yards per game.
All told, the ups and downs will likely continue with Manning until Denver's bye in Week 7, when he can have some extended time to get the offense on the same page. He's a great quarterback, but not a miracle worker. Chemistry takes time.
He should have one of those up games in Week 4. The weak Raiders defense should give Manning the time and space he needs to have a vintage performance to win his way back into the hearts of fantasy owners who put faith in him.
By season's end, he'll finish as one of the top fantasy QBs, just like the old days.