One of the biggest stories in the NFL offseason was where Peyton Manning would land and whether or not he could return to his playing form after his neck injury. He landed with the Denver Broncos and any questions about his playing ability have been answered loud and clear. Peyton Manning is fine and he has the Denver Broncos prepared to make a march right into the NFL playoffs and perhaps the Super Bowl.
Premature reports anointed Manning back after the Broncos defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers after opening week of the regular season. Many of those same pundits backtracked a week later, when Manning struggled on Monday night football against the Atlanta Falcons. The following week, the Broncos lost at home to the Houston Texans.
NFL fans knew it was going to take some time for Manning and his nuances of playing the position to gel with his new teammates in Denver. That gelling seems to be happening and the rest of the NFL needs to watch out. The Denver Broncos appear poised to get on a run which could give them one of the top two seeds in the AFC playoffs.
Any questions about Manning’s ability to play need to be silenced. In his last four games, Manning has completed 75.4% of his passes for 1,289 yards, 12 touchdowns and only one interception. He has averaged a 127.9 passer rating. He has thrown for over 300 yards in five straight games.
In the next nine games, barring an injury to Manning the Broncos should be favored in eight. The only game that Denver might not be a favorite is the December 16 contest against the Ravens in Baltimore. Even that is in doubt going forward, given the injuries the Ravens defense has sustained.
The AFC West title appears a simple fruit ripe for the picking by the Broncos with two games remaining against the Kansas City Chiefs and a game each with the Raiders and Chargers, two teams already defeated by Denver.
Heading into the season, I realized that the Broncos had a brutal schedule. I thought if Manning could be 80% of the quarterback he was in Indianapolis, the Broncos might go 10-6 and seek into the playoffs. After watching every game he’s played this season, Manning is more than 80% of the signal caller he was with the Colts. He’s playing at an elite level and while a shoe-in for Comeback Player of the Year, Manning is competing for MVP of the league.
The Broncos offense will simply continue to get better as the season progresses and Manning has more time to work with his receivers. This is a team which I currently believe can go 8-1 down the stretch, to finish 12-4 for the regular season. Manning is back, and just fine. The rest of the NFL should take notice.