Fantasy Fox: Updated QB-starter rankings for 2014 season

On the flip side, Vikings QB Matt Cassel might be good bet for nine or more starts … even with rookie Teddy Bridgewater clamoring for full-time snaps sometime around the Thanksgiving holiday.

1. The odds of Peyton Manning matching or eclipsing last season’s record-breaking tallies with passing yards (5,477) and passing touchdowns (55) are astronomically long, factoring in the Broncos’ difficult schedule (Jets, Patriots, Colts, Bengals, six games against the AFC West, four outings against the NFC West — the NFL’s toughest division).

Simply put, Peyton may be the No. 1 quarterback here — but not at the expense of a top-5 running back or Calvin Johnson in Round 1.

2. For once, Drew Brees did not win the unofficial fantasy title of "Most Games Of 300 Total Yards and/or Three Touchdowns" in 2013. That honor went to Peyton (13). As a consolation, Brees had to settle for becoming the first QB in NFL history to pass for 5,000 yards in back-to-back-to-back seasons.

Think about that for a second.

3. I have Aaron Rodgers (2,536, 17 TDs for eight full games last season) penciled in for 4,450 yards passing and 42 TDs — his two-year averages for the 2011 and ’12 seasons.

4. Of his first 12 games last year, Lions QB Matthew Stafford (4,650 yards passing, 31 total TDs) racked up 300 total yards and/or three touchdowns nine times. It’s an encouraging sign for a guy who’s typically a candidate for 5,000 yards passing.

Now for the bad news: There is a clear line of fantasy demarcation separating Manning, Brees, Rodgers … and every other quarterback in this countdown (including Stafford).

5. Strange but true: Andrew Luck (3,822 yards passing, 27 total TDs) eclipsed the weekly QB-elite threshold of 290 total yards and/or three touchdowns just six times last year. And yet, the Colts still notched 27 or more points eight times.

1. In standard-scoring leagues last year, Newton (3,964 total yards, 30 TDs) tallied 19 or more fantasy points 10 times — despite playing with a so-so receiver corps of Steve Smith (64 catches, 745 yards, four TDs), Brandon LaFell (49 catches, 627 yards, five TDs), et al.

So, why should it matter this year’s group of pass-catchers — excluding ultra-reliable tight end Greg Olsen — faces a number of open-ended questions?

Sure, the current cast of Kelvin Benjamin (Carolina’s Round 1 draft pick), Jason Avant, Jerricho Cotchery (10 TDs with the Jets last year) and Tavarres King has their warts, but Newton should be used to throwing to C-plus talent by now.

The only downside: After offseason ankle surgery, it’s hard to envision Newton hitting his three-year average for rushing touchdowns (9.3).

2. How vital is Rob Gronkowski to Tom Brady’s fantasy success? Of Gronk’s last 20 complete games — including the playoffs, but excluding the Browns tilt from December (left early with season-ending knee injury) — Brady boasts per-outing averages of 295.8 yards passing.

And during that span, Brady has a scintillating 42/11 TD-INT ratio.

3. For the fantasy owners who end up with bad teams this fall, or at least below-average records, you may regret drafting Joe Flacco, Tony Romo, Cam Newton or Ben Roethlisberger as QB1s.

1. The Ravens might not encounter a single bad-weather game all season. Baltimore’s last cold-weather road trip involves Pittsburgh for Week 9.

After that, the Ravens’ final three road outings take place in New Orleans (Nov. 24), Miami (Dec. 7) and Houston (Dec. 21). Cha-ching!

On the down side … aside from his sparkling championship run two seasons ago (January/February 2013), Flacco has never thrown for three TDs in three consecutive outings.

Plus, for the 2013 campaign, Flacco tallied three touchdowns just once (Week 14 vs. Minnesota).

2. How deep is this year’s QB class? In 16-team leagues, in-their-prime assets like Romo, Flacco, Ryan Tannehill, Eli Manning, Alex Smith and, of course, Big Ben could be backups for as many as 10 fantasy weekends.

1. Brian Hoyer’s unflattering ranking goes on the assumption of a lengthy Josh Gordon suspension — covering eight, 12 or even 16 games. It also presumes that first-round pick Johnny Manziel will see the field sooner than later in Year 1.

2. Ryan Fitzpatrick is no longer a sustainable starting QB in the NFL. In the short term, though, it’s impossible to fully implode when Andre Johnson (109 catches, 1,407 yards, five TDs last year), DeAndre Hopkins (primed for a breakout), tailback Arian Foster and tight end Garrett Graham are your primary weapons.

3. The Jets have done a nice job of upgrading their playmakers — signing Chris Johnson, Eric Decker as free agents and then taking tight end Jace Amaro and wideout Jalen Saunders in the draft. (Don’t bury veteran WR Stephen Hill just yet, either.)

Still, Geno Smith must prove his stripes as a viable fantasy quarterback. In his final nine games last season, Smith accounted for only 240 total yards and/or multiple touchdowns twice.

4. Matt Cassel (1,807 yards passing, 11 TDs) could be a nice sleeper pick early in the season, as part of Norv Turner’s progressive offense. Just don’t expect him to log many starts after Minnesota’s Week 10 bye (Bridgewater Time).

5. Here’s an unusual endorsement of Chad Henne — at least in 16-team leagues: The Jaguars’ first four opponents — the Eagles, Redskins, Colts and Chargers — ranked 32nd, 20th, 13th and 29th against the pass last year.

And lest we forget that Kansas City QB Alex Smith passed for 378 yards and four TDs against Indy in the wild-card round last January.

Jay Clemons, the 2008 Fantasy Football Writer of the Year (Fantasy Sports Writers Association), can be reached via Twitter, day or night, at @FOX_JayClemons.