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Manning, Charles top best 2013 fantasy football performances

Photo: Icon SMI

Peyton Manning's big Week 1 set the stage for a season that led many fantasy teams to the playoffs.

We've celebrated the best players of the fantasy season and criticized the biggest busts. We've looked at the guys who outperformed their draft-day price tags and named our fantasy MVPs. All of these season-long awards are comprised of single games from week to week, some of which live on in our memories months and years after they happened. Before we close the book on the 2013 fantasy football season, let's take a look back on the best individual performances at each position.

Quarterback

Peyton Manning vs. Baltimore, Week 1: 27-42, 462 yards, seven touchdowns

Manning checked a number of boxes with his opening week performance against the Ravens. Avenge last year's playoff loss? Check. Get the ball rolling on the best quarterback season in NFL history? Tie the record for touchdown passes in a game? Check. Delight his fantasy owners? Definite check.

Manning torched the Ravens for 46.48 fantasy points in standard-scoring leagues, edging Nick Foles' 44.24-point game against the Raiders in November. Just how impressive was this game from Manning? Forget about the exact numbers and consider that the Ravens, even with this game on their résumé, surrendered the 11th-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks this year.

Furthermore, the game was the first in Manning's scorched-earth campaign of 2013. He would throw for at least four touchdowns eight more times and 350 yards six more times. He achieved both of those feats in the same game on six occasions. In a season filled with video-game box scores, his evisceration of the Ravens stands out as the best.

Running Back

Jamaal Charles vs. Oakland, Week 15: 20 rushing yards, eight receptions, 195 receiving yards, five touchdowns

Like Manning, Charles gave fantasy owners monster games week after week. They were 1-2 in the fantasy MVP discussion, and will almost certainly be the top two in the NFL MVP voting, as well. Despite the season-long domination, it's just as easy to find Charles' best game of the year as it was to find Manning's.

Week 15. The semifinals in most fantasy football leagues. Charles draws a great matchup. Even with everything he had done in the season to that point, no one could have expected what would come next. On the Chiefs' first play from scrimmage, Charles caught a screen pass and took it 49 yards to the house. On a third-and-19 on their next possession, he turned what was supposed to be a nothing play to set up a field goal 39 yards for his second touchdown. He scored twice more in the first half, once on a one-yard plunge and then again on a screen pass, this one from 16 yards out.

He saved his best for last. Taking advantage of a one-on-one matchup with a linebacker, Charles got himself wide open on a wheel route, made one cutback and, 71 yards later, hit pay dirt for the fifth time on the afternoon. In a crucial week to date for fantasy owners, Charles put up 51.5 points in standard-scoring leagues. If you were a Charles owners, odds were you made it to the postseason. He did everything he could to ensure that you lifted that championship trophy once you got there.

Wide Receiver

Eric Decker vs. Kansas City, Week 13: eight receptions, 174 yards, four touchdowns

This was the toughest one to pick. That's what happens when 14 receivers reach 1,200 yards and 10 score double-digit touchdowns. When forced, however, Decker's four-score game the first week of December barely beat Josh Gordon's 261-yard, two-touchdown game against the Jaguars the same week.

Decker had been quiet leading up to his outburst against the Chiefs. In his four previous games, he had 22 catches for just 170 yards. He hadn't scored since before Halloween and had just three touchdowns all season up to that point. Over that same stretch, Demaryius Thomas gave Denver's opponents nightmares. He had 23 receptions for 345 yards and five touchdowns, carrying much of the weight of the passing game along with Manning. Defensively, the Chiefs appeared to craft a game plan to stop Thomas, and pretty much did that. He had three catches for 106 yards, but was totally silent until a 77-yard reception late in the third quarter. Unfortunately for the Chiefs, that left them with no answer for Decker.

The fourth-year veteran out of Minnesota scored once in the first half before finding the end zone three times after the half, notching all of Denver's second-half touchdowns in the 35-28 win. All told, he scored 41.4 points in typical fantasy leagues. It helped launch a late-season run in which Decker would have four more touchdowns and 313 yards. It wouldn't be enough for him to pass Thomas, but he set a new career high with 1,288 yards and had at least 11 touchdowns for the second-straight season.

Tight End

Vernon Davis vs. Arizona, Week 6: eight receptions, 180 yards, two touchdowns

Touchdowns are king in fantasy football. That's why it's so hard to pass on Jordan Cameron's three-touchdown game against the Vikings here. He had just 66 yards in that game, though, and that's where Davis gets the edge. His 30-point performance against the Cardinals was the highest single-game total for a tight end this season. It was also the standout game in a resurgent season for Davis, who finished the year with 850 yards and 13 touchdowns after having just 548 yards and five scores last year. The huge day against division-rival Arizona capped a five-week run in which Davis had 414 yards and six touchdowns. He gave his owners at least one touchdown in 12 of 16 games this year, but the game with the Cardinals was his peak performance of the year.

Kicker

Justin Tucker vs. Detroit, Week 15: six field goals, two from 50-plus yards

Tucker's 18 points in Week 15 were more impressive than Dan Bailey's because he made six field goals, whereas Bailey had five with three extra points. Tucker went a perfect 6-for-6 against the Lions, including the game-winner from 61 yards. In leagues that award yardage bonuses he had at least 20 points, as two of his kicks were from more than 50 yards.

Defense

New England vs. Baltimore, Week 16: four sacks, three interceptions, one fumble recovery, two touchdowns, seven points allowed

The Patriots had an uneven offense for a large portion of the year thanks to injuries to Rob Gronkowski, Shane Vereen and Danny Amendola, as well as spotty production from their running backs. The defense did not get a ton of attention, but the unit was largely responsible for keeping the team's head above water, especially early in the season. It finished the year ranked eighth in fantasy points and saved its best for last, long after it had lost Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo.

In a Week 16 drubbing of the Ravens, the Patriots forced four turnovers, two of which they turned into touchdowns. They sacked Joe Flacco four times and held the Ravens scoreless for the first 50 minutes of the game. There's a lot of variability in fantasy scoring for defensive points allowed, but the sacks, takeaways and touchdowns were good for 24 points. A number of defenses posted low-to-mid-20s scores this year, but the Patriots earn the honor because they did it in Week 16.

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