SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

September 7, 2013

Fantasy Forecast: Broncos offense should run wild on defenses all season

Fantasy Forecast
Andy Silva

---- — This just in: Peyton Manning is a really good quarterback — both in reality and fantasy.

I’m sure no one had to be reminded of this, but it was only put more into focus after Manning’s absolute throttling of the Ravens Thursday on opening night. But the real story of the game was the rest of the Broncos offense.

Needless to say, the Broncos offense is legit. For all those who had concerns about how Manning was going to keep all the receivers happy, the ball was spread around pretty well as tree different receivers had two touchdowns apiece. Despite concerns in some corners about how he would mesh in a new offense, ex-Patriots wideout Wes Welker had 9 receptions for 67 yards and 2 TDs.

Yet the really big takeaway was the emergence of tight end Julius Thomas. Owned in just 48 percent of Yahoo! leagues, Thomas was dominant as the former fourth round pick caught 5 passes for 110 yards and 2 touchdowns. Manning has always shown the ability to elevate tight ends and Thomas was already a sleeper entering the season. Throw in Thomas’ considerable athleticism and the upside is there. The sheer number of targets through the air could become a concern, but it could also become a boon — opposing defensive coordinators may be inclined to focus more on the Broncos’ trio of impressive receivers, thus opening up opportunities for Thomas.

If Thomas is available in your league, I would go out and add him immediately.

The other big news was the fact Knowshon Moreno appears to be the Broncos No. 1 running back, at least for now. After all the preseason hype over rookie Montee Ball, Moreno saw most of the playing time vs. the Ravens when the game was still in doubt. Sure, he wasn’t particularly effective (28 yards on 9 carries), but neither was Ball or Ronnie Hillman. I’m not suggesting you should give up on Bell, but I am pointing out that Moreno looks as though he will get plenty of runs. And Moreno is still widely available, owned in only 43 percent of Yahoo! legaues.

Either way, the Broncos are going to make a lot of fantasy owners happy this season.

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On the other end of the spectrum is the New York Jets. I ask you: Is there a single Jet you really want to own?

Maybe Bilal Powell at running back, but beyond that not much else. Santonio Holmes is already hurt with a foot injury and questionable for Week 1. Clearly, you don’t want either of the Jets quarterbacks, Geno Smith or Mark Sanchez. And really, the team’s ineptitude at QB brings down the rest of the offense into its spiral of despair.

It’s hard to see any offensive player on this roster being productive enough to merit playing in anything other than maybe a bye week.

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He was a popular sleeper before the season, and it’s easy to see why. I think wideout T.Y. Hilton is poised to have a breakout season for the Colts.

Hilton appeared to come into his own late in 2012, posting four games of over 100 receiving yards after the halfway point. He led all rookie wide receivers in TDs (7) and was second in receiving yards (861). With a year of experience and more time to mesh with quarterback Andrew Luck, Hilton should improve upon those already strong numbers. I think he is a must start in most of his games this season.

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Rob Gronkowski has been participating in Patriots practice all week, but I find it hard to believe he’ll be ready to go against the Bills tomorrow.

The tight end has been listed as a ‘limited’ practice participant all week and the team designated him as doubtful for the opener. Of course, getting any injury information out of Bill Belichick is like pulling teeth, but even with his monotone statements yielding no actual information, it’s hard to believe the Patriots would risk exposing Gronkowski to further injury by rushing him back too soon — especially considering they’re facing one of their all-time punching bags in the Buffalo Bills.

The Pats are going to desperately need Gronkowski in the passing game as the season progresses, so I believe they’ll play it safe. Most pundits seem to believe that Gronkowski will make his return to action in Week 3, which sounds reasonable. Yet given Belichick’s propensity to do things contrary to what people think he’ll do, you can never completely rule anything out.

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Andy Silva writes the Fantasy Forecast column each week in The Salem News during the Major League Baseball and NFL seasons.