John Sommers II/Icon SMI
Well, it's time to trust him again. Against the vaunted NFL-leading Baltimore Ravens defense, and with top running back Joseph Addai leaving early with a groin injury, Manning looked the part of top fantasy quarterback -- finally -- by tossing three touchdown passes and throwing for 271 yards Sunday. His timing was back; he showed chemistry with old friends; and his repaired knee, which had clearly hampered him since offseason surgery, didn't appear to be an issue.
Make no mistake, fantasy owners were leaping off the Manning bandwagon. A first-round pick in many leagues who entered the weekend ranked No. 16 among quarterbacks in fantasy points, Manning hooked up with ol' pal Marvin Harrison early on a 67-yarder to get the fun started. By the end of the first quarter, he had hit Reggie Wayne in just the right spot for a pretty touchdown. Manning hit Harrison again on a 5-yard scoring pass before the half, giving him most of the 22 fantasy points he would earn on the day. For comparison, Manning had averaged fewer than 13 points per game before Sunday, and had been outscored for the season by Kyle Orton, J.T. O'Sullivan and David Garrard. How many fantasy owners started one of those fellas over Manning on Sunday?
"We've just been a little off, and not as sharp as we need to," Colts coach Tony Dungy noted. Added Manning, "This is more of what we expect around here."
Of course, fantasy owners were expecting this from the first week of the season, but due to myriad issues -- led by Manning missing the preseason with the knee and a hurting offensive line -- the Colts struggled. Manning wasn't as highly drafted as Tom Brady, but he wasn't far off. With Manning throwing as many interceptions as touchdowns coming into Sunday, the Colts sputtering at 2-2, and the Ravens coming to Indy, it's no wonder many fantasy owners were opting for names like Orton, O'Sullivan and Garrard. When's the last time the great Peyton Manning wasn't a sure thing as a fantasy play? If you drafted the guy, surely you didn't figure on ever sitting him, but he was started in a mere 62.7 percent of ESPN leagues. By the end of Sunday, only Drew Brees and Philip Rivers had better fantasy games among quarterbacks.
After the Colts' 31-3 surprise demolition of the Ravens, Manning spoke of this game being like the first week of the season. Presumably, his knee feels good, and assuming Addai's injury is relatively minor and he was kept off the field as a precaution, this is the Colts team we figured we'd see. It's about time. This is clearly good news for fantasy owners.
Late-breaking news: Romo out four weeksWhile Peyton Manning seems to have gotten back on track, another top quarterback won't be getting fantasy teams any points for awhile. Tony Romo's broken pinkie will cost the consensus top-3 fantasy quarterback about a month. This isn't like Tom Brady's injury; Romo will be back, there shouldn't be long-term repercussions and most fantasy teams can probably get by for a few games. A few of those games weren't going to be terrific matchups to start with (Buccaneers, Redskins, Giants). Brad Johnson, 40, will step in and lead the Cowboys, but he isn't close to the same fantasy option. Romo entered Week 6 tied for sixth in fantasy points, and even with the busted digit, he played well against the Cardinals. Johnson has thrown 11 passes since joining the Cowboys in 2007. It's likely the Cowboys will lean heavily on the run game and shorter passes. Marion Barber is a stud to start with, but Felix Jones -- if healthy -- would stand to see more touches. Terrell Owens was struggling with Romo, and this quarterback change isn't likely to help, unless the Cowboys make a concerted effort to get him more involved. Regardless, if you own Owens or Jason Witten, you'll never sit them. Johnson would have been a fantasy spot starter because of his weapons, but considering the schedule, after the Rams this week, it's tough to call him a top-20 fantasy signal caller.
Brett Favre certainly didn't pile on the fantasy points against the lowly Bengals, but those who were patient with Thomas Jones were rewarded with three touchdowns and 25 fantasy points. Jones had 31 fantasy points all season. As upbeat as I was on Jones entering the season, it's hard to argue he'll enjoy another standout fantasy performance like this again. For Favre, he will have better days than just five fantasy points, so don't fret.
We saw glimpses of the potentially terrific Matt Schaub-Andre Johnson duo last season, but not much in 2008, as Schaub had been a bit inconsistent. Against the Dolphins, neither player had any problem putting up numbers, as Schaub threw for 379 yards and delivered 22 fantasy points, while Johnson hauled in 10 catches for 178 yards and a score, worth a wide receiver-leading 21 points. Even when the Dolphins knew the ball was going to AJ, it didn't matter. Johnson has more than 300 receiving yards the past two weeks, and the Lions, Bengals and Vikings up the next three weeks. He's virtually a can't-miss top fantasy asset.
|This Week In Fantasy Football History|
By Neil Tardy
1997: As a nation of fantasy owners turned to Minnesota QB Brad Johnson as a bye-week fill-in, something extraordinary happened. Johnson managed to throw a touchdown pass to himself. When Johnson's toss near the goal line was batted back into his arms, he alertly took off, burrowing in for a 3-yard score. Getting credit for a TD pass and a TD catch on the same play boosted Johnson's otherwise mediocre numbers against the Panthers (203 yards, two TDs, 1 interception) and no doubt turned a few outcomes in fantasy. Brad Johnson, a legion of Romo owners now turn their eyes to you. Any more tricks in that bag of yours?
Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons:
Is it time to believe in the rookie? After not reaching 200 passing yards in his first five games, he managed to top 300 against the Bears. Ryan has earned at least spot-starter reliability at this point. The 4-2 Falcons are no joke, and while Ryan probably won't join Michael Turner and Roddy White as weekly fantasy plays, he should be targeted in keeper formats.
Le'Ron McClain, Ravens:
The Colts couldn't stop the run all season, and McClain was getting double-digit fantasy points each week. Naturally, he rushes for minus-2 yards on two carries. What's more shocking: the Colts' run defense, or McClain getting stifled? Trust each returns to "normal" status soon.
Correll Buckhalter, RB, Eagles: With a bye week ahead and Brian Westbrook likely back for Week 8, one would think Buckhalter will lose all value. Then again, after torching the 49ers for 178 total yards and a score, and Westbrook not durable, he should remain in the offensive picture, and a future fantasy play if starting.
Warrick Dunn, RB, Buccaneers: Earnest Graham scored the touchdown, but Dunn rambled for 115 yards on 22 carries. He's a dark horse to reach the 1,000-yard mark, so despite past evidence, he's clearly not done yet. The last time he ran for 100 yards as a Buc was in 2000.
Patrick Crayton, WR, Cowboys: While underperforming Terrell Owens continues to anger his fantasy owners, Crayton scored for the second consecutive week. He hasn't graduated to No. 2 status as a fantasy wide receiver, but he should remain owned.
Vincent Jackson, WR, Chargers: The way Philip Rivers is throwing, fantasy owners might be able to use multiple Chargers wide receivers even when Chris Chambers returns. Jackson reached 134 receiving yards and didn't look like a fluke doing it.
JaMarcus Russell, QB, Raiders: Maybe you didn't expect much, but doesn't everyone throw on the Saints? With a new coach preaching a strong passing game, Russell took a large step backward. If he doesn't thrive against the Saints, when will he?
Chris Perry, RB, Bengals: Do the math: 11 carries for 14 yards is not pretty. Cedric Benson didn't thrive, either. When Ryan Fitzpatrick paces the team in rushing, it's a really bad sign. Perry might have lost most of his flex value, too.
Jonathan Stewart, RB, Panthers: DeAngelo Williams didn't go off, either, but Stewart saw a big reduction in carries and got stuffed on a goal-line rush, as well. I'm not giving up on him, but I'm not seeking him in a trade, either.
Santana Moss, WR, Redskins: He was shut out in Week 5 against the Eagles, so maybe his two catches for 22 yards against the Rams wasn't odd. You'd think he's a must-play this coming week against the Browns, but maybe not.
At running back, Joseph Addai owners will be watching closely to see the extent of his hamstring injury. Backup Mike Hart suffered a knee injury, which is why Dominic Rhodes got pretty much every carry for the Colts. The Cowboys lost rookie Felix Jones to a hamstring injury as well. Fred Taylor left the win in Denver with a head injury, but isn't expected to miss time after the bye week.
Both Kevin Curtis and Eddie Royal missed Sunday's games, but the fact that each was apparently close to playing (Curtis is recovering from a sports hernia and Royal is down with an ankle injury) bodes well moving forward. Marques Colston and Jeremy Shockey also appear ready to play this coming week.
Think Adrian Peterson is just an OK play against the big, bad Bears? Peterson ran for 224 yards on the Bears in Week 6 last season, and in two games scored five times. Bernard Berrian, by the way, is a former Bear, but since he's playing so well, does he need more motivation?
Willie Parker against the division-rival Ravens? Never good. But this week Parker returns from injury and faces the downtrodden Bengals, whom he regularly tortures. In six career regular-season meetings, he has games of 126, 131, 133, 134 yards, and scored six touchdowns. Chad Johnson, incidentally, hasn't scored against the Steelers in his past seven meetings.
Randy Moss comes off a disappointing Sunday-night game and has to face Champ Bailey. As a former Raider, Moss has faced Bailey before. In six career games against the Broncos, Moss has topped 100 yards only once, and has one touchdown.
Tony Romo, Marion Barber and Terrell Owens faced the Rams a season ago, winning 35-7. Romo passed for three touchdowns and ran for another, but Barber and Owens were quiet, accounting for 50 yards rushing, and 33 receiving, respectively.