The NFL news cycle can be vicious. Less than 24 hours after throwing for 323 yards and a pair of scores against the league’s most imposing pass defense, Peyton Manning's arm strength was back in the news.
ESPN’s Ron Jaworski noted that Manning isn’t “spinning it” like Aaron Rodgers or Matthew Stafford. This was hardly earth-shattering news, as Manning was never among the league’s rifle arms even in his prime.
The story sprouted more legs, however, when a veteran scout texted NFL Network’s Albert Breer to say, “Peyton Manning can’t throw the ball anymore.” Wait, there’s more. As Breer delved deeper, the scout offered, "I would put my professional reputation on this -- he cannot throw with the velocity he could a couple years ago. He just can't. He's still as smart and accurate as anybody, he just can't sling it the way he used to." Another scout went on to voice the same opinion to Breer, stating that Manning’s arm is “for sure, a lot weaker.”
I’m no scout, but I watched the game and Manning’s arm wasn’t exactly in pop-gun Pennington mode. If that arm was strong enough for a top-10 Week 3 fantasy finish against the Texans, it’s plenty sufficient to exploit a Raiders defense absolutely torn asunder by opposing aerial attacks. Oakland’s corners are so shabby that safety Mike Huff had to change positions, to "spectacularly bad" results versus the Steelers. Spinning or not, Manning is a must-start in Week 4.
Week 4 Quarterbacks
QB Notes: What to make of Rodgers? He hasn’t directed the Packers offense to 20 points in a game since last Christmas. Of course, the defenses of the Super Bowl winning Giants and this year’s 49ers, Bears and Seahawks has a lot to do with that. With his weapons intact and a potential shootout looming against a Saints defense that just allowed 510 total yards to the Chiefs, Rodgers is getting the benefit of the doubt this week. He gets the edge over Brees due solely to homefield advantage.
Stafford returned to practice Thursday and is on track to play against a Vikings defense that could be in a let-down game after playing over their heads against the 49ers. … The Falcons-Panthers game could match the Packers-Saints for fireworks potential. It’s a big game for Newton’s fantasy outlook.
Playing without his top receiver for 11-of-12 quarters, Griffin has directed the Redskins to a league-high 99 points while averaging 404.3 yards per game. If you drafted RGIII as your backup, however, it may not be a great idea to shop your other quarterback. Griffin is on pace for 171 rushing attempts, which would shatter Michael Vick’s career-high of 123. Defenses are starting to sell out their ends, as evidenced by the eye-popping 28 times that Griffin went to the ground with contact against the Bengals. He’s taking a lot of punishment out of that pistol offense.
Fitzpatrick’s fantasy points have been inflated by a garbage-time Jets defense and two weak opponents. As NFL Films analyst Greg Cosell points out, only three of Fitzpatrick’s 86 pass attempts have traveled 19+ yards. He still has issues with ball placement. Sell high if you can. … Schaub’s accuracy on deep and intermediate balls was pin-point versus Denver, but the Texans remain the run-heaviest team in the NFL. … Look for Ponder’s fantasy production to rise with Jerome Simpson on board as a vertical threat.
Cutler has another tough matchup against a Dallas defense that has shut passing games down this season. … Locker’s Week 3 stats were artificially inflated by a pair of fluky long touchdowns to Jared Cook and Nate Washington. He has a prohibitive matchup against J.J. Watt and Johnathan Joseph.