PHOTO: New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady shouts in frustration while leaving the field during the final minutes of the Patriots 40-21 loss to the Indianapolios Colts at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. Monday, Nov. 7, 2005. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
Brady Surpasses Manning
By Joe Levit
Monday night Peyton Manning finally figured out a way to lift that Sasquatch-sized* monkey off his back with a big win in Gillette stadium. Said Manning, "Coming off of Halloween, everyone said that I had to look myself in the eye. I don't know what that means. We just came out and executed." Clearly, Manning was able to stare down his demons, and with the 40-21 suppression of the Patriots complete, and his nightmare futility against Tom Brady (previously 0-7 head to head) over, the debate can begin to rage about who is the better quarterback.
Should the Colts go on to a perfect season, it would be one factor in favor of Manning (and a blow to the yearly champagne celebrations of the 1972 Miami Dolphins) though it would be stupid to ignore Brady's three titles. Ironically, while the win-loss column seems to be shifting between these two quarterbacks, so too are their fantasy values, at least for this season. Because even after Manning posted 321 yards and three touchdowns passing in Foxboro, Brady is still a better fantasy option this season, as are more than a few other surprising quarterbacks.
Though Brady was honest about the game's outcome when he succinctly said "I don't have much to say. I mean we got our butts kicked," a simple look at the season's statistics will measure Manning, and find him wanting. In eight games Manning has passed for 1,872 yards. That ranks him twelfth in the NFL, directly behind Matt Hasselbeck, who has been without Darrell Jackson and Bobby Engram for much of the season, not to mention departed Koren Robinson. Brady, on the other hand, is tied for second with Carson Palmer for passing yards, each reaching 2,285 yards so far. That is a full 413 yards ahead of Manning, a clear and substantial advantage in favor of Brady
What Manning was able to accomplish in 2004 was truly astounding. He surpassed all-time great Dan Marino when he claimed the record for most passing touchdowns in a season with 49. This year has been a different story. Peyton does retain a slight lead in touchdowns over Brady in 2005, having tossed 14 to Brady's dozen. However, Brady has thrown for two fewer interceptions, with only four on the year.
2005 Team Reality and Philosophy
Of perhaps more importance this year than statistics to date, and the forward projection of them, is the actual game planning in place this season for these two teams. In the past, the Colts defense was so terrible that not only would Peyton pass because he was prolific at it, but because he had to if he wanted the team to have any chance to win ball games. That has all changed this year.
In 2005, the Indianapolis defense has come together. New stars like linebacker Cato June (five interceptions) and sack specialist Robert Mathis have the Colts' defense running down opposing players. Without a dire need to score points with every possession, the Colts have been able to employ a ball-control strategy, using Edgerrin James much more effectively, and taking shots through the air only when it becomes advantageous to do so. Back are the days of James scoring in nearly every game, and having a legitimate shot at running for 100 yards each time he suits up on Sundays.
Since this is clearly a winning formula for the Colts, they are not going to suddenly revert to their 2004 ways. They are winning with a tough defense, a solid ground game, and the threat of Peyton Manning passing. This means that most weeks Manning will have average statistics, pedestrian by his own lofty standards. That is ok for Manning, who is concerned about winning. It is not ok for the fantasy owners who drafted him high in the first round of their draft with the belief that he would duplicate his huge fantasy impact.
The Patriots, on the other hand, need Brady to come through for them now more than ever before. The defense cannot stop people on the ground, or through the air. They give up points. With Dillon not at full strength, this means the burden falls to Brady to take the actions necessary to put the team in a position to win each week. Brady will remain among the league leaders in passing yards, and should have a stronger second half throwing touchdowns too.
Other Quarterbacks Better than Manning
It isn't only Brady who is making Manning look bad by a fantasy football comparison this season. Five other quarterbacks have the stats to show up Peyton, particularly when taking into account where these players were selected in fantasy drafts.
McNabb has been able to remain hot with a lot of distractions. It remains to be seen if he can stay at the top of his game without Owens as a weapon, but as of right now, McNabb has two more touchdowns and interceptions than Manning, and a lot more passing yards (McNabb leads the league with 2,338). McNabb was one of the top-tier fantasy quarterbacks going into the season, along with Manning and Daunte Culpepper, but nearly no one would have taken him over Manning.
Many expected Palmer to have a lot of success this season, but the fact that he has four more touchdown passes and still one fewer interception than Manning does come as a surprise. Palmer is tied for second place with Brady in passing yards (2,285). With no receiver troubles on the horizon, and in perfect health, it is obvious that Palmer is destined to enjoy a terrific season, and take the Bengals to the playoffs.
Collins has more yards and only half as many interceptions as Manning this year. He was a somewhat hyped commodity before the season, with fantasy owners picturing Moss, Porter, Ronald Curry and Doug Gabriel romping through secondaries. Injuries have ensured it did not happen as drawn up, but now things could be on the rebound with Porter in the picture and Moss on the mend.
A player who always gets off to hot starts on the season before cooling off, Bledsoe is ahead of Manning in passing yards, and tied with six interceptions, behind by one touchdown. If veterans Keyshawn Johnson and Terry Glenn stay upright, so can Drew's passing stats.
Manning version 2.0 is 61 yards behind Peyton, with an identical number of touchdowns, but he has thrown one fewer pick. He has some consistent weapons in Jeremy Shockey and Tiki Barber. If Manning can retain his rapport with import Plaxico Burress, he'll be there statistically in the end, and at a much better value than his sibling.
better known as Bigfoot to many, is technically an ape or possibly even a hominid,
but assuredly not a monkey.
Based in Boston, Joe Levit is a longtime contributor to Patriots Insider, columnist for Sports Illustrated (SI.com) and thehuddle.com. He provides fantasy football entertainment for corporate or client appreciation events (fantasyfootballspeaker.com). A member of the PFWA and FSWA he can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read Joe's Profile