Most people wondered if Peyton Manning could ever play football again after a neck injury kept him out of action in 2011.
Now, most people are wondering if Manning has a chance to take Denver to the promised land and win MVP.
Manning’s Broncos have fought through a tough schedule, one of the hardest in NFL history, to win 6 of 9 games and beat teams like the Steelers, Bengals, Chargers and Saints. Denver leads their division by two games, and they have an easy road to the playoffs from here on out.
Four of their next seven games are at home. Two are against the Chiefs, who haven’t led in regulation all year. One is against the Raiders, who just got pounded by the Ravens 55-20. One is against the 2-7 Browns, and another is against the Chargers, who lost to the Browns.
So it’s safe to say Denver has a pretty easy path to the playoffs, and it’s also pretty safe to say that if Denver can beat San Diego at home on Sunday, they will almost lock up the division. They have fought through the tough times, and Manning has guided them through those times.
Manning has thrown for 21 touchdowns this year, and he has been intercepted only six times. Against the Steelers and Texans, owners of the best defenses in the league, Manning has thrown for four touchdowns and zero interceptions. He was intercepted three times in one quarter against the Falcons, but outside of that game, he has thrown for 20 touchdowns and three picks.
He leads the league with a quarterback rating of 108, and cracks the top five in passing yards. He is among the league leaders in touchdowns, and most quarterbacks have been intercepted more times than him. And, his Broncos are among the league leaders in wins.
Manning set another record by completing 70 percent of his passes for the sixth straight week, and he moved into sole possession of second place with 420 career touchdown passes. His completion percentage is 69.7, which is second in the NFL to only Alex Smith. And Smith has only thrown 217 passes this year (and 13 touchdowns), while Manning has thrown the ball 330 times.
He has been picked off six times. Therefore, he has been intercepted once every 55 passes, which is just another incredible stat on Manning’s stat sheet.
However, the MVP award isn’t about the stats. You could say that Tim Tebow went 8-5 in 2011 with wins over the Bears, Jets and Steelers, so the Broncos would be doing well with him. I love Tebow, so I would like to think that, too.
But here’s the reality. Denver scored under 17 PPG with Tebow, and while I think he sparked the offense and the fan base (and would do the same in New York), he wouldn’t be having success in Denver. Some of those points were scored because of the defense, too, and Tebow’s 72.9 passer rating was 35.1 points under Manning’s.
The Broncos have surrendered over 17 points in 6 of the nine games, so the Broncos’ record would be about 3-6 under Tebow, using the average. That’s not completely fair to assume, but it’s safe to say Denver wouldn’t be 6-3 with Tebow at the helm.
Denver doesn’t have another capable quarterback to lead them, even through their current stretch of easy games. So Manning’s veteran presence and amazing performance has definitely boosted the team, and it has made them a feared team once again.
Sure, Tom Brady has been great, but it definitely helps to have Rob Gronkowski, Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd, in addition to a relevant rushing attack including fantasy star Stevan Ridley. Denver has talented running backs, but Willis McGahee has scored once every 40 carries and fumbled five times.
Oh, and Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas as the star receivers? I’ll take Lloyd and Welker.
Manning has pieced together a team that doesn’t appear to be incredibly talented and taken it to the promised land, and he will continue to spark his team. Denver has rallied from down 20-plus points four times, coming within 10 points every time, coming within one score three times and winning once.
That right there shows just how resilient the Broncos are. And Peyton’s stats and performance show just how good he is.