Peyton Manning: Why Broncos QB Is NFL MVP Through Week 6

Tyler ConwayFeatured ColumnistOctober 17, 2012

SAN DIEGO, CA - OCTOBER 15:  Quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos celebrates his teams 35-24 victory ovet the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium on October 15, 2012 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Raise your hand if you still think the Denver Broncos made the wrong move choosing a 36-year-old Peyton Manning coming off four neck surgeries over sticking with Tim Tebow.


Well, if you are one of those final Tebow holdouts, just know that you're picking a backup quarterback over the 2012 NFL MVP through six weeks of the season. 

Obviously, it's easy to say it's an overreaction to hoist Manning into the MVP race after his performance against the San Diego Chargers on Monday night.

With the team looking at a 2-4 record and a two-game deficit in the AFC West, the future Hall of Famer led the Broncos to 35 unanswered points in the second half to come back from a 24-0 deficit and win the game.

While that performance was among the greatest in Monday Night Football history and it rubber stamps Manning as "back," late-game comebacks have become something of the norm in Denver.

Last season, the Broncos got hot in the second half of the season behind a fantastic defensive performance and some jaw-dropping fourth-quarter comebacks from Tebow.

While the latter has continued with Manning, the former seems like a thing of the past. Through six weeks, the Broncos rank 15th in the league in total defense—not bad considering the team's emphasis on throwing the ball.

However, where Denver has struggled most is an inability to get off the field. The defense has given up 134 first downs thus far, which ranks 27th in the NFL, and has allowed the opposition to convert on 45.6 percent of their third-down attempts. 

Here is the most disconcerting statistic of all: Denver has been down 20 or more points in four of its six games in 2012.

That is where Manning has found his true value this season. Had the Broncos been down 20 or more points with Tebow in at quarterback, let's just say that the jury is still out on whether or not his late-game magic would translate to such debilitating deficits. 

On the other hand, Manning has thrived. While the Broncos signal-caller leaves something to be desired in the first half, completing 76-of-111 passes for 853 yards and three touchdowns against four interceptions, he's been nothing short of sensational in the second half. 

Manning's 11 touchdown passes in the second half of games (against zero interceptions) are more than Tom Brady, Philip Rivers and Michael Vick have for the entire season. Though down 20-plus points in 66.7 percent of their games, the Broncos have a point differential of plus-32, which is second-best among teams with a 3-3 record or worse. 

More than anything, what Manning has done is keep the Broncos' season afloat against one of the toughest schedules in the league. Through six weeks, opposing teams are 17-11 in games that don't involve Denver, and that record may not even tell the full scope of the schedule's difficulty.

Couple that with Manning seemingly making stars out of both Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas, two guys who were league average at best coming into 2012, and it's difficult to find anyone who has had more value than Manning this season. 

Luckily for Manning and the Broncos, things only get easier after the bye. Of the team's 10 remaining games, only three (home vs. San Diego and at Baltimore and Cincinnati) come against teams with records of .500 or better.

As the schedule gets easier and Denver's record gets better, more people will hop aboard the Manning-for-MVP bandwagon.

Just know that what he's done over the first six weeks already puts him there if you look hard enough.