Peyton Manning Won't Live Up to Elite Fantasy Status vs. Ravens
Unfortunately, those owners will have to get their top-shelf production elsewhere, as Manning will have a fine game, but not one strong enough to single-handedly propel fantasy teams into their Shiva Bowl.
On the surface, Manning's matchup against Baltimore looks like a gift sent from the fantasy playoff messiah. Heading into Week 15, the Ravens have the 23rd best pass defense in the NFL, giving up 246.3 yards per game.
They also have recent history working against them. Baltimore allowed Charlie Batch to throw for 276 yards and a touchdown against one interception in Week 13, a performance that came just seven days after the veteran signal-caller looked lost versus the Browns.
With Manning coming into Sunday's contest averaging nearly 300 passing yards and over two touchdowns per week, all signs point toward a nice performance superficially.
However, just because those facts prove the Ravens have a middling defense doesn't make a good opponent fantasy-wise.
Though Baltimore has bent all season, its defense hasn't been one willing to break. The Ravens are tied for the NFL lead in passing touchdowns against with the Seahawks, a team that gets far more praise heaped upon its secondary.
Baltimore is also sounder than you would expect metrically. According to Football Outsiders' DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) metric, the Ravens rank 14th in the NFL against the pass, giving up 3.3 percent higher production than a replacement-level unit would against similar competition.
None of this is to say Manning will have a bad game. He won't. Baltimore's secondary will continue to bend and the Broncos star should wind up somewhere in the neighborhood of 275-300 yards passing.
Manning isn't going to use his feet to score points, meaning his value is 100 percent tied to his right arm. Without touchdown passes, Manning would need 300 yards just to provide 15 points to his owners.
If you give Manning a guaranteed one touchdown pass, he'd score 18 points and leave most satisfied. And all of this is without accounting for the possibility of interceptions, which have been just as likely as touchdowns this season against the Ravens.
Remember, there's a stark difference between satisfied and an elite fantasy option. Over the past four weeks, an average of 9.25 quarterbacks per week have scored 18 or more fantasy points using standard scoring.
In other words, a reasonable projection for Manning's performance on Sunday puts him somewhere within the 10 best guys at his position.
That's certainly not bad and worthy of a start in most leagues. However, risk-taking managers who own Manning and Colin Kaepernick or Manning and Josh Freeman would be making a canny move to start either young signal-caller.
Kaepernick takes on a Patriots secondary that ranks 29th in the NFL against the pass and has given up 22 touchdown passes this season. With his ability to use his feet also coming into play, 20 points is almost a virtual lock.
Freeman, meanwhile, gets a prime matchup against the Saints defense. I don't need statistics to prove my point there.
All told, there are probably only a select few owners who will have a backup good enough to justify benching Manning. Just remember to temper your expectations. Manning may have been the reason you're in the semifinals, but the MVP candidate won't be a fantasy superstar in Week 15.
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