How to Beat P. Manning

It’s that team.  The one everyone else can’t stand.  The team with the player everyone else passed on in the 2013 draft.  The team everyone is now jealous of.  The team everyone in the league dreads.  The team everyone despises in their sleep.  Yes, it’s that team: the fantasy team that owns Peyton Manning.

Peyton Manning has redefined the meaning of dominance in fantasy football.  It used to be that the likes of Adrian Peterson would dominate a fantasy season by setting themselves apart in a position that, while not the highest scoring in fantasy play, lacked anyone of comparable ability.  But in case of Peyton Manning in 2013, he has been setting himself apart from everyone else in historical fashion in what’s traditionally been the highest scoring position in fantasy football.  Talk about dominance….

If the tweets I see every week on Twitter are any indication, a number of fantasy owners resign themselves to defeat when facing “The Peyton Team”.  Their pessimism is not unfounded.  I am in five head-to-head fantasy leagues this season.  In those five leagues, Peyton Manning owners are 24-6 through six weeks.  And two of those five teams are still undefeated.  It’s not looking good for anyone who doesn’t own this living legend in 2013.  The road to your fantasy championship clearly goes through him.

So how do you go about it?  How do you keep this one fantasy player from thwarting your hopes of a league championship?  How do you get that added edge when your fantasy team goes up against him?  How do you beat Peyton Manning?

1.  Assume Risk

For starters, unless The Peyton Team in your league lacks decent players at most other positions, be prepared to assume some risk to get the win.  You might own the likes of Drew Brees, Adrian Peterson, Calvin Johnson, or Jimmy Graham.  But none of these great players produce with the consistency of Peyton Manning.

To demonstrate just how much more consistent he is relative to most everyone else this season, consider the Top 10 Fantasy QBs from each week this season.  Manning has finished in the Top 10 five times – and four of those five times, he was in the Top 5.  Only Rivers and Cutler have made the Top 10 four times this season.  And only Brees and Schaub have been there three times.  Among running backs, only Jamaal Charles (6) and LeSean McCoy (4) have had more the three Top 10 Fantasy RB appearances six weeks into this season.

The point is, simply plugging and playing the best members of your fantasy team may not be enough to get the job done against Manning.  Be prepared to take some chances.

2.  Get Upside and Avoid Downside

If you are going to keep up with Peyton Manning, you need to start players who have the potential to score big;  guys with some serious upside.  Cam Newton, Justin Blackmon, and Darren Sproles (in PPR leagues) exemplify the kind of players you want to start on Peyton Week.  Yes, there is a risk they won’t have a spectacular day.  But it is this type of risk you want to assume when you are facing The Peyton Team.

On the flip side, owners should avoid starting players with downside.  These are the players who usually don’t have anything better than an average day and have a tendency to lay a goose egg every few weeks.  Think of the 2013 versions of Maurice Jones-Drew, Dwayne Bowe, and Jermichael Finley here.  Your Peyton Manning Week is when you want to sit Finley and take a chance on Joseph Fauria (5 TDs on 7 receptions).  Which leads to the next point…

3.  Increase Your Opportunities

The more opportunities your fantasy players have to see the ball, the more likely they are going to score fantasy points for you.  Yes, quality and efficiency count for something.  But if your fantasy RB is getting 20+ attempts a game or your wide receiver is getting targeted 10+ times a game (think Knowshon Moreno, Josh Gordon and Justin Blackmon), good things are bound to happen.  Likewise, if your player sees a lot of action in the red zone or gets a lot of looks there (like Joseph Fauria), then he merits serious consideration as a stater on Peyton Week.

Another important aspect of opportunities is matchups.  A road game against Kansas City is not the week to start Terrelle Pryor when you’re trying to keep up with Manning.  You want to start players who are facing defenses that give up lots of fantasy points to players at that position.  All-the-better if your guy is playing at home.  These are some of the finer points of fantasy strategy during a normal week, which can sometimes be safely ignored.  But when your opponent has a quarterback who is scoring 28.5 points per week, you need every point you can get.  Find opportunities you can exploit by researching the matchups.

4.  Your Defense and Kicker Really Do Matter.

Fantasy owners often pay the least attention to their DEF/ST and their kicker.  But in a battle for every point, these positions are key – and exploitable.  These positions get so little love that owners can often find a DEF/ST or kicker with upside potential on a given week sitting pretty on the waiver wire.  If your league rewards long field goals handsomely, look for that long leg no one has done anything about.  He might be just what you need to get your team over the hump when you tangle with Peyton Manning.

5.  Prepare Ahead of Time

Make sure you prepare for your Peyton Weeks and the League Playoffs (where you might see him again) well-ahead of time.  In some cases you may be limited in what you can do by your league’s roster settings.  But when possible, make your roster adjustments at least 2 weeks in advance of these battles.  If you wait until the week of your matchup with The Peyton Team, you might find yourself competing for much-needed players with your fellow fantasy owners.  And if you aren’t able to wrestle those players from their grasp, you could be left ill-equipped to tackle the task at hand.

The Bottom Line

There are no guarantees in fantasy football.  But if you are willing to assume some risk by starting players with upside and avoiding those with downside, putting emphasis on those with more opportunities for touches, while making your DEF/ST and kicker decisions count, you stand a much better chance than most at beating Peyton Manning – especially if you put in the effort to prepare ahead of time like he does.

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