Five takeaways from Thursday’s opener (special Peyton Manning edition)

Andy Behrens
September 6, 2013
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When the NFL season opens with a 76-point, 903-yard stat binge, fantasy owners are not gonna complain. Or rather, they won't complain, unless they were buried by Peyton Manning in Week 1. In that case, OK. You can maybe gripe a little.

Several of us woke up on Friday morning to a score like this...

...courtesy of Peyton [expletive] Manning. So it's unrealistic to expect total contentedness.

[It's not too late to play Yahoo Sports Fantasy Football]

And this gets us to my first Thursday takeaway...

1. Whatever your projection was for Peyton, dial it up. I can tell you that my 2013 forecast for Manning did not include a SEVEN-touchdown game. That's ridiculous. After Thursday's absurdity, the Broncos get bonus time to prepare for a Week 2 matchup with the Giants, a team that ranked 28th against the pass last season (254.3 YPG). Denver then hosts Oakland and Philly in Weeks 3 and 4; those defenses combined to allow 61 passing scores a year ago. The Eagles gave up more passing TDs than any team (33) in 2012.

Manning could head into October having already thrown for 16 scores, easy — and with five division games remaining, plus matchups with Jacksonville and Tennessee. We could be looking at a 40-plus touchdown season, friends. Of course he won't be able to pick on this guy again...

2. Corey Graham, that was not your best game. I mean ... gah. If you happened to have high hopes (or any hopes) for the Baltimore defense this season, well ... yikes. What a roasting. First, the D completely ignored Broncos tight end Julius Thomas, who finished with 110 receiving yards and two scores. (As we've already mentioned a time or two around here, Joel Dreessen and Jacob Tamme combined for 143 targets last season; Orange Julius is in line for a significant number of looks.) And then Manning began torching Ravens corner Corey Graham.

Here's Graham demonstrating textbook slip-and-fall defense against Wes Welker...

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...leading to an easy score. And here's Graham arriving way too late, as Baltimore allowed Welker to stand alone in the end zone, uncovered...

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And, finally, here's Corey getting roasted by Demaryius Thomas...

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No shame in that one, really. (Or at least there's less shame.) Thomas is a monster.

So Baltimore has a few things to clean up before hosting Cleveland in Week 2. At least the Ravens managed to contain this trio...

3. Denver's backfield committee — led by Knowshon Moreno, for now — is going to fill us with sadness. The plan, you'll recall, was for some member of the Broncos RBBC to eventually get the "hot hand." Then the team would ride that player until his hand cooled. Well, Moreno and Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman combined for 67 rushing yards on 21 carries. Knowshon saw the most work, but he averaged just 3.1 yards per carry. Ball was not stunningly effective, either (3.0 YPC). Hillman briefly flashed some liveliness, catching a pair of passes for 27 yards, but he was immediately yanked from the game.

To be fair, the Broncos have been very clear about their commitment to committee. The team never really pretended this would be a one-man show. Right now, Moreno seems to be the committee head. Ball was a second-round pick, of course, and he saw plenty of late work on Thursday. But none of these guys reached double-digit carries in the season opener, and nobody managed a 10-yard run. Until we reach the bye-heavy weeks, try not to mess with these guys. (OK, maybe against Oakland. But that's it.)

4. Baltimore, that was entirely too much Dallas Clark. And not nearly enough Marlon Brown. If everything you knew about Thursday's game was from the box score, then you might assume that Clark was OK. He was targeted a team-high 12 times, and he finished with 87 receiving yards. So that's not bad. But he also had a brutal drop at the goal line -- the throw was perfect -- and he had a fumble negated by penalty. Clark, at this stage, has zero elusiveness. He's not the answer. A healthy Dennis Pitta would have been a beast on Thursday.

Undrafted rookie receiver Marlon Brown, however, looks like a keeper. He was terrific in the preseason (as we've already discussed), and the kid saw six targets against Denver, catching four for 65 yards, with a TD included. Brown has excellent size (6-foot-5), and he didn't have much trouble getting himself open against the Broncos secondary. He's a waiver flier worth taking in deeper leagues, particularly after the Jacoby Jones injury (knee). There's really no way Baltimore's offense can lean heavily on Clark and Brandon Stokley all year.

5. Eric Decker was funny-bad against the Ravens. But he's also a buy-low. Decker dropped an easy touchdown on Thursday...

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...and he had at least one other hysterical drop, with the ball hitting him square in the chest. And he fumbled one of his two catches.

Still, Decker did see seven targets on the night, a respectable total. This is a player who led all receivers in red-zone chances last year (25) while scoring 13 times. There are better days ahead, I'm fairly sure. At 6-foot-3 and 215, he's a useful player in short-field situations ... when his hands work, which they obviously did not on Thursday.