Many of us weren’t really sure how to project Peyton Manning following his major neck surgery and eventual release from the Colts in 2011, but still, it’s been a long time since we felt this unsure about Peyton in fantasy football. Any time an older player is underperforming, it’s so easy to play the “He’s done” card, and much has been made about Manning’s demise over the last handful of Broncos games, dating back to last year. To be honest, Peyton hasn’t really helped himself out in terms of silencing his critics either. Age, arm strength, gloves, coaching – all sorts of reasons have been cited as the likely culprit.
One question that maybe hasn’t been asked enough is, “How has Peyton performed based on his matchups?” We are so used to Manning being a matchup-proof, every week, top-of-the-line QB play, but if he’s become a bit more matchup-dependent, is that really the worst thing? We use those kinds of players all the time in DFS.
To that end, let’s start with Peyton’s opponents over the second half of 2014:
What sticks out to me is the Opponent +/- column. Many of Peyton’s opponents over the second half of 2014 have been tough matchups for QBs. In fact, going back to LAST HALLOWEEN, Peyton has faced one opponent (Rams) that has increased QB value by one point or more. Cross-referencing the above game log against the most difficult DFS teams for QBs to face, there is a lot of overlap:
Peyton Manning is definitely not the only “good” QB who has had problems with these teams over the past year, as you can see below. He’s just been unfortunate to match up with them more frequently than his peers.
Going back to Manning’s arm strength – Pro Football Focus tells us that Peyton’s average depth of throw in 2014 was 8.9 yards. Compared to other QBs around the league, that ranks in the middle of the pack. But it was higher than the 8.3 aDOT Peyton averaged during his record-setting 2013 campaign. As this article by Sam Monson explains, Manning’s arm strength is probably not the issue, and it’s unlikely that his decision-making is going to be what kills him either.
Three of the past four seasons, the offense or team Kubiak has coached has finished in the top 12 in terms of percentage of rushing plays compared with passing plays. There’s a stark contrast between Peyton’s career passing attempts per game averages and Kubiak’s QBs.
That seems bad until you realize Aaron Rodgers averaged only 32.5 passing attempts per game in 2014. Tom Brady was also around this vicinity, averaging a hair over 36 passes per game last year. QB efficiency can make up for volume, even for premium salary DFS QBs.
Peyton is at his cheapest price point right now on DraftKings and FanDuel and will likely stay in this mid-level range for quite some time barring something drastic. Maybe 2015 Peyton wasn’t worth the third-round pick in your season-long league, and I have no idea if he’ll be able to take Denver deep into the playoffs this year.
But as a DFS play? He’s currently priced at Cutler-Flacco-Stafford levels on DraftKings. Sooner or later, the schedule is going to put Peyton in a favorable spot. If he can’t get it going in a good matchup, even I will be ready to throw in the towel. But if he’s just become a matchup-dependent QB who the DFS community has left for dead, that’s fine with me. I’m willing to take one last trip to Peyton Island to find out.