Feb 2, 2014; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) throws in the pocket against the Seattle Seahawks in the fourth quarter in Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Can Peyton Manning Be Even Better in 2014?

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Peyton Manning was amazing in fantasy football in 2013. He was amazing in general, actually. As in record-breaking amazing.

Sure, Manning’s Denver Broncos fell flat in the Super Bowl against the Seattle Seahawks, but he was pretty spectacular on a regular basis up until that game.

He helped many a fantasy owner win their league title in the process, as he put up a record 55 passing scores and 5,477 passing yards.

So, the big question is pretty simple: Can Peyton Manning somehow be even better in fantasy football in 2014?

The short and easy answer is “no way”, right?

After all, the guy is 38 years old.  He also lost Eric Decker and Knowshon Moreno, and a natural drop-off from numbers that sick is only to be expected. It also doesn’t help that Denver will have to endure one of the league’s toughest schedules a year after working through one of the easiest.

Throw in a four-game trip through the NFC West (specifically the 49ers and Seahawks), and it could potentially be a bit ugly in spots for Manning in 2014.

Then again, this is The Sheriff we’re talking about here, and despite some lost weapons, this is still one potent passing attack.

It’d be easy to focus on all the bad, but things don’t always have to bend and then break. They might just keep bending for the aging Manning, and he might just have as good a year as he did a season ago. Heck, he could even be better.

And why not?

Emmanuel Sanders is looked at as a downgrade from the departed Decker, but he’s actually a much more explosive athlete. He probably isn’t going to be as much of a factor in the red-zone, but his athleticism and speed both bode well for good yardage after the catch ability, as well as deep shots down the field.

Jan 19, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (88) against the New England Patriots. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Sanders isn’t being brought in to be a red-zone monster anyway. Demaryius Thomas is an elite performer in that department, while athletic tight end Julius Thomas (12 touchdowns a year ago) is only scratching the surface of his talent and will only be more involved.

In a sense, losing Decker might even help this offense, as it puts more focus on getting the ball in the hands of three other options that are arguably vastly superior athletes.

Then there is the loss of Moreno. It’d be a big deal if there wasn’t a potential stud in Montee Ball waiting to take over – but there is. Ball showed down the stretch in his rookie season that he can do all the little things people criticized him over coming out of Wisconsin.

There is surely still some risk with Ball, but he’s actually a superior talent to Moreno, and he doesn’t have the laundry list of injuries to worry about. He’s a better inside runner and should fare better in goal-line and short-yardage situations as well. In fact, no more Knowshon could open the door to the explosive Ronnie Hillman to get on the field and showcase his speed as well.

And let’s not leave out the master in the slot – Wes Welker.  He endured some concussion issues last year, but was otherwise an elite performer for most of the year and will want to play well in a contract year.

There is even the rookie receiver, Cody Latimer. He has a foot issue and might be a bit behind this summer, but his explosiveness and versatility could team up with Sanders to give Denver a nice rotation at receiver.

The logic is there. It unfortunately does lean both ways, but there is still enough there to think that it’s entirely possible Manning avoids a huge statistical drop-off.

The reality though is that he’ll land somewhere in the middle. Being even better than he was a year ago may take another insane hot start in week one. Last year he was vaulted onto a record pace thanks to seven touchdowns in the first game of the year. An easy schedule and a surprisingly awesome Julius Thomas contributed to the pace catching fire from then on.

History says quarterbacks aren’t very likely to put up mammoth seasons back to back. Manning himself dropped down considerably the year after he first broke the single-season touchdown record (49), while Tom Brady did the same after tossing 50 scores in 2007.

Could Manning be even better? Sure, it’s possible. The odds are just against it.

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Tags: Denver Broncos Peyton Manning

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