Normally there's nothing to worry about when starting Peyton Manning as your Fantasy quarterback. But after last week's zero-touchdown, two-interception nightmare at Green Bay, and considering his fairly inconsistent play this season, we can't help but raise our eyebrows as it pertains to his Week 8 matchup against the undefeated Titans -- at Tennessee on Monday night.
Is Peyton Manning a risky start?! Read on.
Let's start with the matchup. Manning faces off against a Titans pass defense that has allowed exactly one passing touchdown this year (David Garrard to fullback Greg Jones in Week 1). This same pass defense has picked off 10 passes (best among teams with six games played). That's incredible, but to Manning's credit, the Titans haven't played against a quarterback of his caliber yet this year. The Titans have won games going up against Garrard, Carson Palmer, Matt Schaub, Gus Frerotte, Joe Flacco and all three of the Chiefs' passers. Not exactly a who's who of stud quarterbacks. But it is worth noting that the Titans defense has 18 sacks on the season, tied for fifth-best in the league. Manning has been sacked nine times so far this season, one of several byproducts of the beat-up offensive line in front of him.
|Reggie Wayne's recent history against the Titans has been less than stellar. (US Presswire)|
Why not consider Manning's home stats vs. Tennessee over the last two seasons? Last year's meeting was in Week 17, which saw Manning play very little before finding the bench to rest up for the playoffs. The year before, Albert Haynesworth was suspended and the Titans secondary was nothing like what it is now, so it's an unfair comparison (besides, Manning's stats weren't all that great).
What about the surface? Manning has played only one true game outdoors this season -- last week at Green Bay. Technically, the 247-yard, two-touchdown game he played at Houston was outdoors because the Reliant Stadium dome was open, but that's not exactly the same thing. Let's make this point: Outdoors on grass, Manning hasn't been special. In his last seven games on grass, he's thrown for 1,932 yards on 58.9 percent passing with eight touchdowns, 11 interceptions and a dozen sacks.
We note the play of quarterbacks on grass not only because of how it affects them, but also because of how it affects their receivers. In the case of Manning's Colts, note that Reggie Wayne had a 100-yard game and/or a touchdown in half of the six 2007 on-grass games he played, and Dallas Clark had only two of his 11 scores on grass last year. The only Colts receiver who might differ is Anthony Gonzalez, who has led Indianapolis wide receivers statistically in the club's last three games outdoors on the natural stuff.
So it looks sort of murky this far, right? Well, let's consider something else: Indianapolis' expected game plan. While we can't say with absolute certainty that the Colts will throw the ball a lot against Tennessee, it's a safe bet that they won't lean on Dominic Rhodes to grind into the teeth of the Titans' tough run D. So expect the Colts to pass, similar to how they did against Baltimore in Week 6, especially after Joseph Addai got hurt: Go into the no-huddle and throw often.
It's with that thinking, combined with the fact that the man has thrown back-to-back 300-yard games in Tennessee, that Manning should be a reliable enough starter in Week 8. Unless you have another great passer on your roster with a tremendous matchup -- and there really aren't any this week -- you should stick with Manning. Just like you would have before you read through all this analysis.
What about the rest of the Colts?
It looks like Joseph Addai is unlikely to play this week, and even with the Colts scoring once on the ground in the last two overall meetings with the Titans that have mattered (we're excluding Week 17 from last year), it's not a safe bet to go with Dominic Rhodes. The Titans run defense may have allowed six touchdowns this season, but just two at home, both to Adrian Peterson.
And if we like Manning, then Reggie Wayne's seems like a safe pick too, right? Not so fast; Wayne has one touchdown and zero 100-yard games in his last four against the Titans. In fact, Wayne hasn't totaled 100 yards against Tennessee since Week 2 of the 2004 season! When you consider that the Titans haven't allowed a 100-yard receiver all year, Wayne's upside hits a low glass ceiling.
Wayne's loss will be Clark and Gonzalez's gain. Remember, Gonzalez has led the Colts' wideouts in yardage in their last three games on grass. If Indy fans out its receivers, Gonzalez will find himself covered by someone like Renaldo Hill and should win some downfield battles. Clark will see a lot of Michael Griffin, and that could hurt him even though he scored in their earlier '07 meeting.
As for Marvin Harrison, he's had one great play all season. Considering his track record this year and ignoring his past since he's not the same player he has always been because of his knee injuries, the matchup suggests staying away.
What about the Titans?
This one's a lot easier. Indy's allowing 153 rush yards per game and the Titans' duo ran for more than double that last week. Because the Colts' run defense has been burned by 100-yard rushers in four of its six games this season, starting either Chris Johnson and LenDale White is a no-brainer. That's even with White's low rushing totals in his career against the Colts (no more than 64 yards in any game vs. Indy with one rush TD).
Everyone else on Tennessee is an easy sit, including tight end Bo Scaife, who has been a De facto go-to receiver for Kerry Collins but hasn't scored on them since his first NFL touchdown Week 4 in his rookie year (2005).
Food for thought
Because historical data is just part of the equation in determining whether or not a Fantasy option is good or bad, the following notes are more for your information than actual suggestions on starts and sits for the week. If anything, it might help you make a lineup decision.
|In games off the bye …|
|Larry Fitzgerald||No 100-yard games, no TDs since rookie year|
|Edgerrin James||2 TDs, two 100-yard games in last five|
|Maurice Jones-Drew||TD in each of last two|
|Donovan McNabb||250+ yards in each of last three|
|Fred Taylor||Zero TDs in three of last four|
|Kurt Warner||172 yards, 2 INT, no TDs in last game after bye week|
|Brian Westbrook||150 total yards in last two; no touchdowns in last three|
|Roddy White||No more than 55 yards in any game with no touchdowns|
History suggests ...
|... considering these players|
|Isaac Bruce||153 receiving yards at Seattle in Week 2|
|Jason Campbell||248 yards, 2 TDs vs. Detroit last year|
|Chris Cooley||TD in last meeting vs. Lions in '07|
|Trent Edwards||4 TDs in only game vs. Miami (at home last year)|
|Lee Evans||3 TDs in last two games at home vs. Dolphins|
|Edgerrin James||80 yards, TD vs. Panthers in 2007|
|Julius Jones||141 total yards, TD vs. 49ers earlier this season|
|Thomas Jones||113 total yards, receiving TD vs. KC last year|
|Marshawn Lynch||192 total yards, TD in two '07 games vs. Miami|
|Panthers DST||Six takeaways at Arizona last year|
|Steve Smith||136 yards, TD last year at Arizona|
|DeAngelo Williams||121 rush yards, TD in '07 meeting|
|... thinking twice on these players|
|Dwayne Bowe||One catch, 13 yards in last meeting vs. Jets|
|Ronnie Brown||One career TD in three games with Bills|
|Tony Gonzalez||64 yards in meeting at Jets last year|
|Calvin Johnson||One catch, 3 yards at Washington in '07|
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