Championship Round team fantasy preview: Broncos
Peyton Manning: Pretty good quarterback. What, you need numbers to back that up? You already know what they are: An NFL record 55 touchdowns and 5,477 passing yards; nine games with at least four TD passes. He ranks near or at the top of almost every passing category, including yards per attempt, completion percentage and first-down percentage. It's no wonder he was the catalyst for many fantasy championship teams this season.
Manning was held to just 150 yards and two touchdowns when these two teams met in Foxborough in November as the Broncos went with a run-heavy game plan. But the simple truth is New England's injury-riddled defense doesn't have enough to keep up with Manning and all of his weapons. And if you're wondering how this game will fit into the "Manning struggles in cold weather" narrative, the Sunday forecast in Denver calls for mostly sunny conditions and unseasonably warm temperatures in the high 50s or low 60s. Weather won't be an issue for the likely MVP.
The kicker and defense
This game features the NFL's top two leading scorers. The man who finished second this year, Matt Prater, missed a field from less than 50 yards away last week against the Chargers, his first such miss since Dec. 16, 2012. At least he got that out of his system. Although he scored only seven points in his previous meeting with the Patriots, Prater has averaged 10.8 points in his last four games and is always a solid start in a record-breaking offense.
The Broncos' defense, minus pass rusher extraordinaire Von Miller, did a good job of getting after Philip Rivers on Sunday. They have held four of their last five opponents to less than 260 yards of offense. Yet, the Patriots have turned the ball over just once in the past month, and this game doesn't have the look of a defensive struggle. Avoid Denver's defense this weekend.
On the other side …
The Patriots' offense is literally running wild these days, but when Tom Brady wants to throw it, there's a good chance the ball will be intended for Julian Edelman.
The once-lightly used Edelman finished the regular season as the league's second-most targeted receiver since Week 12. He torched the Broncos for 110 yards and a couple of scores on 11 targets in November. He is playing all over the field and on an absolute tear of late – 59 catches, 640 yards, four touchdowns in his last seven games. The Broncos' defense needs to halt Edelman in order to make the Pats more one-dimensional, but can they? He has become money in the bank in fantasy.