Peyton Manning may have lingering health issues, throw slightly wobblier passes than he used to and play for a different team in 2012. But the Denver Broncos QB is once again having an MVP-caliber season, and he will continue to pad his numbers on Sunday night.
Another very important factor is that Manning has had an entire bye week after his dramatic Monday Night Football victory in Week 6 to prepare for one of the worst defenses in the league.
As meticulously as Manning is known to prepare, he is sure to capitalize on the mistakes New Orleans continues to make in the secondary week in and week out.
The success that Manning has enjoyed thus far with his new team is staggering. Since he is near the top of so many statistical categories, it would be more aesthetically pleasing to break them down in a table:
|Passing Yards ||1808||7th|
|Yards Per Game||301||T-2nd|
These phenomenal numbers are all the more impressive considering the fact that Manning isn't as close to 100 percent as observers may infer. In an interview with SI's Peter King, the 15-year veteran revealed how he's felt—and how he's dealt with it:
Some things are harder than they used to be...And I knew all along the nerve would take a long time [to heal], and you couldn't rush it. It'll be a tad better in two weeks, then a tad better two weeks after that. On game day, I get a little juice and feel pretty good. All I'm saying is, I still have strength to recover and rehab to do.
The implication here is that Manning relies on adrenaline to get him through Sundays, but that he is continuing to get even healthier. Some of that improvement popped out to NBC analyst Cris Collinsworth when breaking down the tape of Manning's historic comeback against San Diego:
I'm studying the tape from the Denver-SD game and Peyton Manning just made the most athletic move I have ever seen from him. Good stuff.— Cris Collinsworth (@CollinsworthNBC) October 24, 2012
Not quite 100 percent, but definitely limber enough to get it done.
Now that the Broncos are through the tougher half of their schedule and Manning is continuing to gain more strength, the numbers could get really gaudy.
What will bolster Manning's statistics on Sunday night will also be the likelihood of more possessions than in most other weeks. New Orleans QB Drew Brees is no slouch himself to say the least, and whether the Saints light up the scoreboard or not with their pass-heavy offense, Manning will get more opportunities to put points on the board.
This is because shutting down Brees and Co. by forcing incompletions will stop the clock, and the Saints' hurry-up offense can get into the end zone just about as quickly as anyone.
Expect another legendary duel between two future Hall of Fame QBs in Sports Authority Field. But regardless of the outcome, expect Manning to continue writing his incredible comeback story with another signature performance.