Six Week 6 Storylines: Will Peyton Manning Play 60 Minutes?

Raise your hand if you're expecting Peyton Manning to play the entire game against Jacksonville. Anyone?

The entire introduction to this column last week was about the Lions. It was about them potentially winning in Wisconsin. It was about getting it together offensively and beating the Packers. And it was about Calvin Johnson and his masterful history against Green Bay.

But Calvin Johnson didn’t play.

Have I cursed this piece for weeks to come? Will the subject of my introduction be doomed from here on out? I hope not, so instead of introducing an idea here, let’s just get right to it. Here are six storylines to watch as you sit on your couch - beer in hand - watching the Red Zone Channel this weekend.

When will Peyton Manning get benched?

We, as in "the world", are expecting the game in Denver to be an absolute blowout on Sunday. And for good reason, of course: The Peyton Mannings can’t be stopped, and, well, the Chad Hennes can. Like, I'm pretty sure if the numberFire staff bought some football gear, we could go all Little Giants on the Jags.

The unfortunate aspect to one-sided affairs such as this one is the tendency for starters to not go the distance. Peyton Manning will probably be benched at some point in the second half, and even a player like Knowshon Moreno may lose some touches to backup Ronnie Hillman (fantasy football sleeper alert).

On the flip side, don’t assume Jacksonville’s offensive pieces are going to be worthless on Sunday. There should be fantastic garbage time opportunity, making players like Chad Henne, Cecil Shorts and Justin Blackmon fantasy-relevant options.

Don’t expect a Jaguars win or anything, just don’t be surprised to see a good number of fantasy points from their offense.

Can Terrelle Pryor perform against a top defense?

Our passing net expected points metric, which takes a look at how well a player is doing compared to one in a similar situation, allows us to see past standard yardage and volume statistics. It shows us the important things, factoring phases of the game like third-down conversions.

Among all quarterbacks this season, Terrelle Pryor ranks seventh under the metric. Seventh. In other words, Pryor has meant more to his team this season than all but six signal-callers, and that’s through the air. We’re not talking about the running game, folks.

It’s been great to see, but we have to be aware that he hasn’t been tested. According to our super nerdy numbers, Pryor’s faced teams ranked 18th (Colts), 27th (Broncos), 28th (Jaguars) and 29th (Chargers) against the pass this season. The Chiefs, his opponent this week? First. They’re the best.

Pryor isn’t a great start in fantasy for Week 6 for that obvious reason, but do keep in mind that the Chiefs allowed 50 rushing yards and a ground touchdown to quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick last weekend, and 99 on the ground to Michael Vick in Week 3. You don’t want to bank on a solid rushing performance in fantasy from your quarterback, but if you’re in a deep league with few quarterback options, there’s some hope that Pryor won’t destroy you this week.

Just know that a good passing stat line is going to be difficult for Pryor to achieve.

Will the Panthers offense turn it around?

You have to be concerned if you’ve invested any fantasy stock in the Panthers offense. DeAngelo Williams has yet to score a touchdown this year, and Cam Newton’s only been able to perform against the lowly Giants. Outside of that contest, he has three touchdowns, four interceptions, a lost fumble and zero scores on the ground.

Fortunately for Superman and his crew, the Panthers will face a Minnesota defense this weekend that ranks 21st under our pass defense metric, and 29th under the rush defense one. The secondary has given up two three-touchdown games, and hasn’t allowed fewer than 292 passing yards in a single contest this year.

Expect Cam and company to turn things around, and even though DeAngelo isn’t much of a red zone threat, there’s opportunity for him this week to get his fantasy stock up before Jonathan Stewart returns to the lineup.

Can Aaron Rodgers get back to being an elite fantasy passer?

It’s not to say that Aaron Rodgers has been bad this year, but 29.6 standard points over the last two weeks isn’t going to cut it for his fantasy owners, especially after posting nearly 35 in Week 2 alone.

The Pack are off to Baltimore this weekend for what should be a good matchup against the Ravens. Though Baltimore ranks first against fantasy running backs this season, it’s been against pretty weak competition. In fact, our numbers say that Baltimore’s been the 10th-best team against the run this season when you adjust for schedule strength.

And the same could be said with regards to their pass defense, as they’ve faced Cleveland, Houston, Buffalo and Miami so far this year. The team ranks middle-of-the-road both under our statistical eye and in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks.

As our fourth-best quarterback option this week, expect Rodgers to return a decent game against the Purple and Black. The defense isn't as strong as some may suggest, and although Eddie Lacy may struggle to find holes, the Packers wideouts should have no trouble against a secondary that’s looked porous at times this year.

Could Tony Romo hit the 500-yard mark again?

Romo’s 506-yard performance against Denver last week showed why the fantasy community always undervalues him in fake football, and it’s very possible that he’s going to carry his success into Week 6.

Washington, Romo’s opponent, has been awful on defense this year. Awful. They were able to hold Matt Flynn to just seven fantasy points in Week 4, sure, but that’s Matt Flynn. Outside of that game, the Redskins have allowed 25.4, 34.9 and 21.6 fantasy points to opposing passers.

The problem for Romo is that his opponent is just as bad against running backs. So far this season in half-point PPR leagues, opposing team running backs have scored more than 20 fantasy points in every contest against Washington, totaling a staggering 98.6 pretend pigskin tallies. Hello, DeMarco Murray.

No, we can’t assume Romo hits 500 yards again in this - or any - game. That would be absurd. But expect the Dallas offense to have a field day against one of the worst defenses in the league.

Can the Saints defense keep this going?

When you adjust the Saints’ advanced metrics for strength of schedule, their defense ranks fourth in the entire league in per play efficiency. Bet you didn’t expect that entering the preseason this year, did you?

New Orleans travels to New England to take on the Patriots this weekend, in what is – and should be – the game of the week. Can they keep it up against the Pats?

In short, they should be able to. Tom Brady’s having the worst statistical season outside of [maybe] his first year as a starter, and his passing net expected points total shows it. He ranks 19th among relevant passers in the NFL under the metric, as he's added just 9.67 points above expectation for the Pats this season. That's about 110 points worse than Peyton Manning.

It’s looking less promising for Rob Gronkowski to finally return too, as he still hasn’t been cleared to play by doctors. In other words, we’re going to see the same, mediocre passing attack that we’ve seen through five weeks of the NFL season.

If you have Brady in fantasy, benching him for players like Philip Rivers or Alex Smith isn’t a bad idea. Until we see an easier path for the Patriots star passer, there’s little reason to go all-in. The Saints have a good defense. It’s no fluke.