The Denver Broncos will be taking this week off, which comes in handy since the team is likely still trying to catch their breath after beating the San Diego Chargers last week in one of the most unlikely comebacks in Monday Night Football history.
Comeback is becoming the catchphrase for the 3-3 Broncos this season, as even in their defeats the Broncos have turned large deficits into competitive games late.
The engineer of these late-game heroics has been none other than quarterback Peyton Manning, and as Bronco cornerback Champ Bailey recently told Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post, the Denver defense knows that if it holds up its end of the deal no deficit is insurmountable with Manning at the helm.
"In this quarterback, we know what we have on our side. All we have to do as a defense is take care of business...If you put a defense that can create turnovers with Peyton Manning, it's definitely a good combination. The sky's the limit."
Granted, much as been made of the 36-year-old's arm strength (or lack thereof), with sportswriters such as Jason Whitlock of FOX Sports breaking out the shovels to throw dirt on Manning's ability to be an effective quarterback.
Peyton Manning wishes he had Chad Pennington's arm strength. Manning is toast.
—Jason Whitlock (@WhitlockJason) September 18, 2012
However, the stats would seem to indicate that Whitlock and Manning's other critics are way off base.
The four-time NFL MVP is second in the NFL in passing yards, averaging over 300 yards a game. His yards per attempt (a number that can easily expose weak-armed signal callers) is tied for fourth in the league, ahead of the likes of Tom Brady of the New England Patriots and Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints.
Maybe they're toast too.
Additionally, Manning has taken excellent care of the football, throwing only four interceptions (three of which came in one quarter against the Atlanta Falcons) against 14 touchdowns (tied for 2nd in the NFL) while posting a quarterback rating of 105.0 that trails only Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers.
Now I can totally see where Whitlock was coming from. Those numbers are awful.
Most importantly, Manning has excelled at doing what he has always done better than any quarterback in the NFL (maybe ever). When the Broncos have played from behind and gone to the no-huddle offense with Manning calling the plays, they have carved up opposing defenses, seemingly at will, which hardly surprises Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan, according to The Denver Post's Mike Klis:
"He kind of set the benchmark for quarterbacks playing in that no-huddle system really in the modern era," Ryan said. "If you're not looking to see how he does it and to see some of the things he does in it, you're putting yourself at a disadvantage [as a quarterback]."
Honestly, I don't know why Denver doesn't just run the hurry-up all the time, or at least a variant of what Manning employed in Indianapolis with the Colts, where he would make pre-snap adjustments at the line of scrimmage.
Granted, Peyton Manning may not be the quarterback he was 10 years ago, but anyone that expected him to be given his age and the neck surgeries that cost him the entire 2011 season was delusional anyway.
However, what Peyton Manning has been is a very effective quarterback who has completed over two-thirds of his passes and has guided the NFL's fourth-ranked passing attack, while keeping a Broncos team that has struggled defensively in the thick of the AFC West race.
As "toast" goes, that's pretty damned good.