There’s a number we need to always keep in mind while attempting to quantify Peyton Manning’s greatness this year. No, it’s not the already lengthy list of counting stats, or the one remarkably still round number in the interception column.
The number is 37.
Peyton Manning is doing all of this — this is throwing 16 touchdown passes (an NFL record through four games) and zero interceptions at the quarter mark of the season, all while completing 75.0 percent of his passes, and at a pace of 9.4 yards per attempt — at the age of 37, and still only a year removed from missing a season due to multiple and major neck surgeries. In football time, that missed season feels like decades ago. In normal human time, it really wasn’t that long ago at all when we were wondering if Manning would ever play again, and we were contemplating his debilitating Zoolander problem.
Yet here we are again, discussing more astronomical numbers that are now becoming the norm for Manning and his Broncos offense. Manning threw for 327 yards and four touchdowns (his 24th four-TD game) while Denver set a franchise single-game record for points scored, thumping Philadelphia 52-20. It was the Broncos’ third game with 40 or more points, and they now easily have the league’s best offense, averaging 483.0 yards per game.
But about the utter lack of interceptions, any of them. Manning isn’t being sheltered by offensive coordinator Adam Gase. The structure of the Broncos’ offense may not ask Manning to test secondaries deep as often, and instead the speed of Wes Welker and Demaryius Thomas after the catch is leaned on heavily through quick screens and slants. But Manning can and does still complete deep throws when he has to (he threw a 52-yard pass to Eric Decker today), and regardless, the sheer quantity of pass attempts — and therefore, his opportunities to make a mistake — is still there in abundance.
Sunday was the first game this year when his pass attempts fell below 35, a mark he missed only by one. He’s averaging 39 attempts per game, with 156 overall (currently tied for eighth most). Brother Eli has attempted only five fewer passes, yet he’s thrown nine more interceptions. Drew Brees has attempted 127 passes, and thrown four interceptions. Colin Kaepernick has thrown four picks too, and he’s needed only 117 attempts to get there.
Yet there’s Manning, chucking freely and flawlessly while scoring 90 fantasy points thus far, and completing more than 80 percent of his passes for the second straight week. And he’s doing it all at the age of 37, when the last rites were being prepared for his career not too long ago.
Fun with numbers
- The Lions scored more points in the first half today (30) than the Jaguars had through three games (28). Owning any part of their offense in a fantasy league is a lot of fun.
- And they did it against the Bears, and their offense that saw the return of evil Jay Cutler. You know, the one that makes horrible decisions, and tries to fit balls where they don’t belong. That led to repeated and ill-timed turnovers. Five of them, with three interceptions and a fumble. Evil Cutler hadn’t really left and he never will, but he was managed and controlled through the first three weeks. Then today he threw as many picks in one game as he had in three games.
- After their latest soul smashing in a 31-7 loss to Kansas City, the Giants are 0-4, and they’ve been outscored 69-7 over their last two games. Owning any of their offense (or defense) in a fantasy league is not a lot of fun.
- Also in fun Jags comedy: Adrian Peterson has scored more total points this year (42), than the Jaguars have as a team (31).
- Alright one more, and then I promise I’m done eating the Jaguars’ delectable low-hanging fruit: the Broncos matched Jacksonville’s touchdown total for the season (three) in one quarter today.
- Brian Hoyer is all about the Jordan Cameron love. The man who’s about to make sure Brandon Weeden gets Alex Smith’ed (an important job security lesson for all you aspiring QBs: don’t get hurt, ever) targeted his tight end seven times in just the first half of Cleveland’s 17-6 win over Cincinnati, and 12 times overall. That ended in 10 catches for Cameron with 91 yards and a touchdown
- We’ll salivate more Re: Reggie Bush’s return to being much more than relevant in a minute. But right now, please know that today we witnessed the first time he had 100 or more rushing yards in the first half of a game.
- Geno Smith had three turnovers during the Jets’ loss to Tennessee, raising his total to 10 over just four games. One of those tasty turnovers came on a fumble-six when Smith was in the grasp near his own end zone, and he then tried to go all And1 mixtape by attempting to transfer the ball from one hand to the other behind his back, which I’m sure hasn’t been done by anyone in football history because, well, why would you? Defending Smith’s right to be a rookie is getting difficult.
- With his 60-yard touchdown run in the second quarter of the Vikings’ win over Pittsburgh, Adrian Peterson logged his second +60 yarder this year in only Week 4. Last year he had five such runs (including three straight games with a run of 60 yards or more), and even more incredibly, he now has 12 career touchdown runs which matched or exceeded that distance. I’d say he’s justifying that first overall fantasy pick.
- Prior to today the Bills were giving up an average of 155.0 rushing yards per game, and they held Bernard Pierce and Ray Rice to only a combined 24 yards.
- Matthew Stafford now has the most passing yards ever for a quarterback in his first 50 games (14,069 yards, and 242 today).
- There’s no depth to these numbers, and no smart guy fancy stat feel, but they’re still horribly depressing. Ready? OK then: on 27 attempts today, Doug Martin had 45 rushing yards.
- Prior to today Joe Flacco had thrown two interceptions on 119 pass attempts, and they both came during Week 1. Today he threw 50 times during a loss to Buffalo, and five of those chucks landed in the hands of someone who doesn’t play for the Ravens. Look, we get it, Joe: through the departure of Anquan Boldin, Dennis Pitta’s injury, and even Ray Rice’s bum hip that kept him out last week and hobbled today, you’re low on options. But that doesn’t affect simple accuracy, and now in one day and one game, Flacco threw half as many picks as he tossed last year during his playoff MVP season (10).
- Further to that and oh so much worse, including the playoffs Flacco needed 657 pass attempts last year to throw those 10 picks. He’s thrown seven on 169 attempts this season.
- Even more pass attempt fun (and more Hoyer fun): Hoyer has now attempted 92 of them in his two starts. Not having any shred of a running game leads to repeated arm abuse, evidently.
An overdose of America
Since the NFL is still trying to grow football in an area of the world that associates an entirely different sport with football, they decided to get as American as possible today. And when you want to do that, Gene Simmons and the pet raccoon that lives on his head have to be invited to sing the national anthem at Wembley Stadium. This is an indisputable fact.
With that rather unpleasant musical interlude over, let’s return to ranting and raving about the day’s best fantasy performers who either made or cost you money.
The old Greg Jennings showed up in jolly ol’ England
Some very rare un-Jennings-like breakaway speed was displayed today when he caught one of Matt Cassel’s 16 completions (he wasn’t awful, and completed 64 percent of his passes overall) about 10 yards down the field. Jennings then did something he doesn’t do much anymore: gain yards after the catch. A lot of them.
He made two tacklers miss, and then took it the rest of the way for a 70-yard touchdown. Because of injuries and general ineffectiveness, it had been 18 games since his last catch of 70 yards or more.
Reggie Bush is the everyman who’s good at everything
The moment Reggie Bush was signed by the Lions last March and head coach Jim Schwartz started tossing around numbers while estimating his new running back’s potential ceiling (80 catches, Schwartz’s initial estimate, sounds both nice and now realistic), we knew it was an environment for Bush to be far more productive than he was in Miami. And even more so than New Orleans before that, because although the Saints used Bush according to his designed purpose (outside runs, and receptions in space), he was always a complementary option. In Detroit, he’d be the main course.
But looking back, I’m not sure we were prepared to get the USC Reggie Bush back, which we’ve seen continually, and again Sunday. His numbers make eyes pop and force multiple blinks, with his average of 5.3 yards per run and 16.3 per catch, and his 173 total yards on 22 touches against the Bears. More importantly, though, is how he’s getting those yards.
He’s cutting, pivoting, jumping, and doing it all to find space with precise movements, the sort of space few others can recognize. Often, he’s looking something like this…
Victor Cruz = hope
If it’s at all possible for the Giants to recover from being buried in the depths of mediocrity with an o-4 start and four straight games allowing 30 or more points (a staggering average of 36.5 points per game), Victor Cruz will be the guiding light. And in fantasy he’s proof that amid the chaos of any pitiful team, there’s often at least one still elite fake footballer.
Cruz is that guy for the Giants, despite another shellacking today and being outscored by 87 points in their four losses. He’s been able to still break loose for home run catches, burning Dunta Robinson today on a 69-yard touchdown grab. It was his third catch of 50 yards or more already, and he finished with 10 catches for 164 yards. His early pace is, in a word, stunning.
Victor Cruz is on pace for 104 catches, 1700 yards and 16 TDs. And he still has four games coming against PHL and WAS.
— Adam Levitan (@adamlevitan) September 29, 2013
Alex Smith has real, honest value
I’m still waiting to see what happens when the Chiefs trail by a touchdown or more, which still hasn’t happened yet. Sometime, Alex Smith will be asked to throw deep far more often, and although we saw that a little more today (four completions of 20 yards or more on 41 pass attempts), the Chiefs’ offense is still one that runs through equal amounts of drinking and dunking. Here’s all you need to know: Jamaal Charles (more on his continued awesomeness below) was targeted 11 times today, giving him 35 targets on the year thus far. That puts him on pace for 140 this season, after being targeted only 48 times last year. Seriously.
That said, for fantasy purposes we care very little about how Smith is accomplishing good things, we just care that it’s happening. And for those in deeper leagues (14 teams or more) he’s becoming an appealing emergency glass case as we descend into the bye week abyss. With less than challenging matchups against Tennessee and Oakland coming up, Smith should get some waiver love this week (he’s available in nearly 60 percent of ESPN leagues) after 22 fantasy points today through 288 passing yards, three touchdowns, and most importantly, 37 rushing yards.
Through four games Smith now has 151 rushing yards, and his high during a full season is 179 yards. He miiiight pass that soon.
Jamaal Charles is catching a lot of footballs
Rounding out the ridiculousness we witnessed in Kansas City today (it still hasn’t quite sunk in yet that we live in a world where the Chiefs are 4-0), Jamaal Charles had his fourth straight game with at least 100 all-purpose yards, this time split almost identically between running with a ball, and catching a ball and then doing a lot of running (65 rushing yards, and 62 receiving yards with a touchdown). But it’s the latter number that’s especially encouraging in a season where mountainous figures will keep being compiled.
Charles is now on pace for 852 receiving yards overall through a quarter of the season, which…yeah, that’s a lot. I’m fully aware that prorating numbers should always be done with a pile of salt nearby, especially when we’re discussing a running back whose previous career single-season high in receiving yards was 468. But also be aware that since all but two teams will be at the quarter mark of the season by the end of tonight, we’re long past the point when “ha whatever man, it’s still early” is a thing you can say.
Matt Forte is enjoying a lot of long Sunday jogs
In a loss that appeared much closer than it really was due to the aforementioned Cutler horribleness, Matt Forte had over 100 total yards for the third time. Like Charles, his value in PPR leagues is growing steadily in Marc Trestman’s offense. Although his receiving yardage may have been minimal today (22 yards), Forte had five receptions for 23 overall this season. Last year at this point, he had just 10.
On the ground, Forte ran for 95 yards, most of which came on a 53-yard touchdown run. It was his second straight game with a run of 50 yards or more, which doesn’t need any additional information to be a fine accomplishment. But of course I have some: over his past two seasons Forte had 451 carries, and he didn’t record a single 50-yarder.
Torrey Smith is still a one-man show, but what a show
In what was a disastrous day for any member of the Ravens’ offense not named Torrey Smith, the speed burning wideout said meh, and finished with 166 receiving yards and a touchdown. He averaged 33.2 yards per catch, a rate boosted nicely by his 74-yard catch, which tied a career high.
But there was concern that Smith is still only a pony with a single trick, and with Anquan Boldin gone someone would need to bring that physical presence up the middle. Or just, you know, any support whatsoever. That didn’t happen today, and while we’ll gladly take Smith’s fantasy production (22 points in standard leagues), the fall from him today to Deonte Thompson’s four catches on 50 yards was a little drastic.
Marshawn Lynch is probably pretty good at pinball
Marshawn Lynch finished with 98 rushing yards and a touchdown during the calamity between the Seahawks and Texans that ended in 20 unanswered points for Seattle in the second half and overtime, and a 23-20 win.
The Seahawks are now 4-0 for the first time in franchise history, and they arrived there in a game that featured the return of the beeeeeeast.
Hmmm, that looks familiar…
Where did you come from?
Robert Woods and E.J. Manuel are pretty good friends
Much like the gap between Smith and the Ravens pass catchers in the same game, Robert Woods finished with 80 yards — a high early in his career — while the next closest Bills receiver was T.J. Graham at 32 yards.
One one catch — a 42-yard touchdown grab in the second quarter — Woods had more yards than his total in two other games this year, and he was targeted eight times by E.J. Manuel. Woods is well worth a waiver flyer and flex consideration, and he’s currently owned in only 4.5 percent of ESPN leagues.
Nate Washington wants to be more than an outlier
With his 105 receiving yards that included a 77-yarder today, Nate Washington now has 236 yards and two touchdowns (both today) over the past two weeks.
Nature will soon correct itself through a regression, especially with Jake Locker set to miss time. But for now, let’s tip our black Heisenberg hats to Washington, and the career-high shattering pace he’s setting: at the quarter mark he’s on pace for 1,328 receiving yards, and his career per season average prior to this year was 675.7 yards.
Danny Woodhead is a random, curious touchdown scorer
Elsewhere in ridiculous paces and statistical absurdities: in a game also highlighted by Philip Rivers’ 401 passing yards and thee touchdowns passes (he’s now averaging 299.8 yards per game and 8.4 per pass attempt), Danny Woodhead scored two receiving touchdowns.
Woodhead has been known as a pass-catching back and a slippery little dude for a while now, so why is his scoring notable? Because despite his skill as a receiver and ability to accumulate yards, he barely scores. Even with 127 career receptions that mostly came in his often limited opportunities in New England, Woodhead had scored only four times through the air in 59 career games before today. Now in one game he’s halfway to that total.
Mmmmm that’s good stuff
Brooks Reed knows what Walter White’s first misstep was: going into the meth business, instead of just selling straight oxygen. You can sling the stuff on the streets like crazy, yo.
(Thanks for the moving picture fun, SB Nation)
Jim Irsay is a strange man
This is a tweet from an NFL owner, during this team’s NFL game.
This thing is TWISTING my BRAIN!!!! http://t.co/9I6vh5O6Rj
— Jim Irsay (@JimIrsay) September 29, 2013
And this is the picture you see when you click through that link. It’s a “poisonous snake dog“, evidently.
To review: Jerry Jones gets a relative to clean his glasses during games, and Jim Irsay smokes poisonous snake dogs.
Quotes of the week
This isn’t a real quote, but it’s real in the sense that many ears heard it, which makes it real enough. I present to you, the best in Jim Nantz verbal fumbles.
Is it just me or did it sound like Nantz said “Jared Allen just needs to keep twerking”?
— Chris Kluwe (@ChrisWarcraft) September 29, 2013
Annnd like last week, we take another trip deep into the mostly vacated mind of Phil Simms.
“The margin of error is so slim and what they mean by that, is…, the room for error is so small” #PITvsMIN
— Phil Simms Quotes (@philsimmsquotes) September 29, 2013
Now onto much more serious quoting matters. As mentioned in great, slobbering detail above, the Broncos put a unique and historic hurt on the Eagles today. It was a win bent so much in one direction that in the aftermath, we’ll mostly focus on the remarkable numbers laid down by the winning team, the team that did the punching.
That’s natural, really, because what Manning et al are doing is so far removed from being even a little bit natural. But then when that simmers, we’re left looking at the reality of rebuilding in Philadelphia, a climb made that much steeper by the lose of Jeremy Maclin, a key offensive element, long before the season even started.
But offense hasn’t been the problem, and we saw that again today. Even during a 32-point loss, the Eagles still finished with 450 total yards of offense, and they currently rank second in that metric (behind only the Broncos, because of course). No, stopping other offenses is the problem, one that’s led to 138 points allowed in total.
Chip Kelly knows patience and perseverance will be required in equal doses to get through the Philly rebuild. He also knows that mostly, no one else cares.
“As I tell people all the time: 90 percent of people don’t care about your problems, and 10 percent are glad you have them.”
- Jake Locker was rocked with a late hit by Muhammad Wilkerson, which resulted in a scary scene and an injury that required a stretcher. At this point we only know the nature of the injury (hip), not the severity, and speculation is ranging from anything to an absence of a few weeks, to a career threatening problem. He was moving while being carted off, but barely.
- C.J. Spiller was already hurting a bit after being limited in practice this week with a knee injury, and then he sprained his ankle today. In a normal week, Spiller would have a chance to play during a Week 5 Sunday or Monday night game. But unfortunately, this week is far from normal for the Bills, and after winning Sunday they’re already only four days away from their next game, a Thursday nighter against the Browns. Spiller himself admits that it’ll be tough to be ready with such a short turnaround.
- Spiller’s “backup” Fred Jackson left early today too after spraining his MCL, though it was clearly a minor injury since he returned promptly and finished with 87 yards on 16 carries.
- The word on Alfred Morris was a discouraging word at first after his exit due to a rib injury which is being called a contusion. But later the running back confidently said he’ll be just fine for a divisional throw down against the Cowboys in Week 6 (the Redskins have a bye next week). Morris owners should still seek some insurance, and Roy Helu is still reasonably available (only 42 percent owned in ESPN leagues).
- Luck hasn’t befriended Stephen Hill. Just when the Jets receiver was starting to fulfill his potential with 194 receiving yards over the last two games, he gets a concussion.
- The Raiders’ running backs decided to go all out with their breaking, as both Darren McFadden (hamstring) and Marcel Reece (knee) left early in their loss to Washington and were later seen standing in street clothes.
- We don’t know the extent of Vince Wilfork‘s foot/ankle injury yet, but if he’s out for any significant length of time, that’s a huge blow to the Patriots’ defensive front, and their ability to defend the run. Wilfork left New England’s Sunday night win over Atlanta early in the first quarter, and had to be carted off. He was later seen wearing a walking boot. Not good.
- UPDATE: Wilfork reportedly has a torn Achilles, which would end his season. Your current Patriots injury tally then: Shane Vereen and Rob Gronkowski are still out, though the latter is returning soon, Aaron Hernandez is gone forever because that’s what happens when you maybe killed someone, and now Wilfork joins them.