In fantasy football, Peyton Manning has always been the superior quarterback compared to his younger brother, Eli. But after coming off a season where he has thrown for 29 touchdowns and a career high 4,933 yards, Eli is making his case as the Manning to target in fantasy this year. In 2010, Peyton's numbers were nearly identical as he threw for 4,700 yards and 33 touchdowns. Both Mannings are elite quarterbacks, but let's take a look at some of their pros and cons.
Beginning with Peyton, his move to the Denver Broncos does not drastically hurt or help him. He does lose the comfort of playing indoors where he does not have to worry about the wind or cold weather, but looking at his numbers, there's not much of a difference in his performance when he plays outdoors. By leaving Indianapolis, he also loses his trusted receivers in Reggie Wayne, Austin Collie and Dallas Clark. However, Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas have proven to be a formidable tandem even in a run-oriented offense led by Tim Tebow. Former Colts tight end Jacob Tamme is also joining Peyton in the Mile High City and has shown that he can be a trusted security blanket.
Statistically, Peyton has thrown for over 4,000 yards in 11 of his 13 years and in four of his last five years has thrown for at least 30 touchdowns. No matter where he plays, he's virtually a lock to duplicate those numbers. Over the past decade, Peyton has been one of the best and most consistent quarterbacks in fantasy.
The biggest question with Peyton is his age and health. With the exception of last season, Peyton has never missed a game in his career, but having undergone multiple neck surgeries raises some concern if he can play a full season. It may even take a few games before we see the Peyton of old. He'll need time to get back into game shape while adjusting to a new offense with different receivers and running backs.
On the other hand, Eli does not face the challenges that Peyton must overcome. Even though the New York Giants lost Mario Manningham and Brandon Jacobs in the offseason, rookies Rueben Randle and David Wilson should be able to maintain their level of production. The addition of tight end Martellus Bennett will give Eli another big target to throw to if he can get consistent playing time. Still, having receivers Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz as his primary receiving options catapult Eli into a top-10 fantasy quarterback.
Since Tom Coughlin took over as head coach eight years ago, his team has always relied on the run. Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw were the centerpieces of the offense, but the focus has shifted to Eli and the wide outs. Over the past four seasons Eli's pass attempts have continued to increase, which indicates he is assuming more responsibility on offense, while at the same time, the run game has gradually taken a step back (ranked last in rushing yards per game in 2011). The combination of a strong passing attack and struggling ground game gives Eli a strong opportunity to produce week in and week out.
The only concerns surrounding Eli is a possible letdown season and having to play eight games against a top-12 pass defense. The Giants' arch-rival Dallas Cowboys also made upgrades in their secondary through the draft and free agency. It will be a tall order for Eli to duplicate last year's numbers, but given his improved play, he has shown that he can make big plays under tough circumstances.
If both quarterbacks put up similar numbers, why not go with Eli who has fewer question marks with his health and team? As great as Peyton is, this could be the first time Eli trumps his older brother in fantasy football.