Manning still matters
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - If critics and scouts are to be believed, the Broncos replaced one quarterback who can't throw (Tim Tebow) with another.

But does it really matter what Peyton Manning's spirals look like or if he can only throw the ball 40 yards in the air if he continues to put up fantasy points like he did in Week 4?

Yes, he was playing the abysmal Oakland Raiders, but Sunday's performance still provided some long-term hope to fantasy owners who thought they had wasted a pick on Manning.

With 338 yards and three touchdowns on 30-of-38 passing (78.9 percent) in Denver's 37-6 throttling of its chief rival, Manning turned in a performance reminiscent of the good old days when he was wearing Indianapolis Colts blue.

On the season, the veteran QB has 1,162 yards, eight touchdown passes and three interceptions and is on pace for 4,648 yards, 32 touchdowns and 12 picks. Those totals are quite similar to what Manning did in his last season with the Colts -- 4,700 yards, 33 TDs, 17 INTs in 2010-11.

His efforts look even better when you consider he threw all three interceptions in Week 2 against the Falcons. In his other three games, Manning's TD/INT ratio is 7-to-0.

Part of the quarterback's success has to do with who he's throwing the ball to. We worried that Manning would take a long time to develop chemistry with his new weapons after spending years slinging the ball around with precision to Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne, but Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker have both been excellent fantasy players so far.

Thomas has caught 21 passes for 325 yards and two touchdowns and Decker 24 for 322 and one score. Both players are big, athletic targets who can go up and get the ball -- each player is 6-foot-3 and can win one-on-one matchups on the outside.

Denver also has a respectable running back in Willis McGahee, a guy who can run between the tackles for tough yards whether he's banged up or not. After leaving Week 3's game against Houston with bruised ribs, McGahee was questionable for Sunday's game but he played and excelled, rushing for 112 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries.

Over his last 19 games, McGahee has rushed for 1,524 yards on 318 carries, a 4.8 ypc average. McGahee has already rushed for three scores after collecting four all of last season, and his nine catches are only three less than he had last year.

The Broncos' schedule also sets up favorably for passing success. Denver will play New England in Week 5, a team Manning is all too familiar with. The Patriots are in the bottom half of the league in TD passes allowed, as are the San Diego Chargers, New Orleans Saints, Cincinnati Bengals and Carolina Panthers.

Kansas City is 31st in the NFL with 10 TD passes allowed and Tampa Bay has given up an NFL-worst 343.5 passing yards per game, including 510 to Manning's brother Eli in Week 2. The Broncos will face the Raiders once more and the Chiefs and Chargers twice each.

Denver gets Baltimore and Cleveland in Week 15 and 16, and though Baltimore still has a fearsome defense against the rush, the Ravens have actually given up 295.8 passing yards per game. Their pass rush will be improved by then since Terrell Suggs will most likely be back in the lineup, but Manning still shouldn't have a difficult time against them. Meanwhile, the Browns have given up nine TD passes and 286 passing yards per game.

All this sets up for Manning to return to form as one of fantasy's top players, even if his football skills have diminished following four neck procedures.

Welcome back Peyton, we missed you.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Thomas J. Harrigan at