Moving Forward: Four Things to Know About Denver's Offense This Year

After Thursday night's game, I'm questioning whether or not Peyton Manning is a robot.

I’ve been relentlessly thinking about how to intro this article since the game in Denver ended last night. I slept on it, woke up, went to the gym, showered, got some coffee…and here I am, still intro-less.

Do I just talk about Peyton Manning’s seven-touchdown performance? Or do I mention Danny Trevathan’s premature celebration? How about the weather delay, Wes Welker’s targets, Eric Decker’s non-existent play, Jacoby Jones’ injury or Joe Flacco’s clear overvalued contract?

The key storyline – to me and from a fantasy perspective, at least – was seeing how incredible this Denver offense may very well be throughout the 2013 season. Perhaps not enough was made about the signing of Wes Welker and the potential emergence of tight end Julius Thomas. Perhaps we were focusing too heavily on analysis of the run game and not enough on the passing one. Perhaps we, as a fantasy community, were underestimating one of the best quarterbacks of all time.

Can the Broncos keep this up?

Eric Decker is the Perfect “Buy Low” Candidate

The only person who looked worse than Eric Decker last night was Brynden Trawick, the rookie special teamer who plowed into Jacoby Jones on a punt return like a drunk college kid running from the cops.

There are plenty of reasons to believe that Decker will bounce back in the upcoming weeks. Over the last two seasons, Decker has compiled a receiving NEP of 51.53 (2011) and 107.69 (2012). If you’re unaware, this metric looks at game situations to determine how many real points a player was adding for his team. The average receiving NEP score among receivers with 30 or more receptions during this time has been 68.46, so Decker has been well above average when you consider Tim Tebow was throwing him passes in 2011.

Decker’s a red zone target, which makes him fantasy relevant. He scored eight touchdowns with Tebow, and 13 more last season with Manning. Even if you go back to his college days in Minnesota, Decker had touchdown success.

Though we’ve had Wes Welker as the better play throughout the fantasy season (WR15 versus WR18), Decker is still going to be a fantasy threat. If you can get him at a discount, go for it.

Is Julius Thomas Worth an Add?

A tight end sleeper for many, Julius Thomas broke free in the first half with two touchdown grabs. He finished the game with five receptions and over 100 yards.

Should you grab him?

Sure, if you need tight end help, go for it. But don’t expect Julius Thomas to be a plug-and-play tight end starter. Given the weapons in the Denver passing game and the fact that Joel Dreessen was out last night, it’s going to be difficult for Thomas to see consistent targets. He’s a threat to score touchdowns – especially when Pey Pey is throwing for seven of them in a game – but there are going to be better matchup plays off your waiver wire each week. He could be nice trade bait right now.

(“But he’s a basketball player like Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzalez!”)

Say No to Drugs, Candy From Strangers and the Broncos Running Game

While the Denver passing game was magnificent, the running game was anything but. No runner had more than Knowshon Moreno’s nine carries, and each back in the committee rushed for fewer than 30 yards on the ground.

Moving forward, it’s probably best to continue to not trust the Denver running game until we get a clearer picture of how things will work. There’s a possibility that Ball ends up being the one to own and becomes the red zone back (he almost scored last night!), but as we noted back in June, you shouldn’t completely trust him.

Can Peyton Manning be the Top Fantasy Quarterback This Year?

The biggest question as we move forward from last night’s opener: Can Peyton Manning keep doing this?

Clearly a seven-touchdown performance won’t happen each week (Let’s make some more touchdown stat extrapolation jokes, Twitter. Please. Keep doing it.), but Manning may actually have one of the highest floors of all fantasy signal-callers. Consider this: Denver gets Oakland, San Diego and Kansas City twice each this season, and they face the AFC South and the NFC East. Manning will see some nice matchups.

We entered the season and thought that Peyton Manning would throw for 4,800 passing yards and 38 touchdowns. There’s no doubt that these numbers are looking more reasonable after Thursday night.