Manning has defied critics to enter the season. Aside from a major hiccup against the Atlanta Falcons on Monday Night Football earlier this season when he tossed three picks early in the game, Manning has been every-bit the star we know and love.
We have to remember that the future Hall of Famer and four-time NFL MVP entered this season with immense pressure on his shoulders.
Not only was he coming back from a devastating neck injury that forced him to miss the entire 2011-12 season, he was starting fresh with a brand new organization. It doesn't matter if you're a future Hall of Famer or a rookie, there's always going to be jitters when you go somewhere new.
Still, Manning has been able to calm down and settle his nerves. After decimating the New Orleans Saints on Sunday Night Football, he currently enters the second half of the season having accumulated 2,113 yards (301.9 per game), 17 touchdowns and just four interceptions while keeping the Broncos afloat with a 4-3 record.
Let's take a look at who Manning will shred to pieces the most on the Broncos' upcoming schedule:
Cincinnati Bengals (Week 9)
Manning and the Broncos travel to Cinci in Week 9 in a decent matchup. The Bengals have a stout defense and a great secondary. Their well-balanced offense has done wonders to keep them fresh on the field. Still, they currently surrender more than 230 yards per game through the air. More importantly, who have the Bengals cornerbacks played against this year?
Cincinnati has had the luxury of playing against middle-of-the-pack QBs this season. The likes of Bandon Weeden (twice), Ryan Tannehill and Blaine Gabbert don't scare anyone. Joe Flacco made this team look silly in prime time in Week 1 when he blew past them with 299 yards, two TDs and zero interceptions.
Manning Prediction: 310 yards, three TDs, one INT
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Week 13)
Where to start with the Bucs? This team has been in disarray all season, mainly in the secondary. It's difficult to have continuity on defense when the team is constantly rotating parts, and that is exactly what's been happening in Tampa Bay this season due to injuries and suspensions.
If only Ronde Barber could be everywhere at the same time.
Entering Week 9, the Bucs give up nearly 310 yards per contest, second-worst in the league. Manning will have extra motivation heading into this game as he'll look to upstage his brother Eli for some family bragging rights.
In Week 2, Manning decimated the Bucs to the tune of 510 yards, three TDs and three INTs. Considering older brother Peyton isn't nearly as turnover-prone as Eli, expect the elder Manning to keep that interception total down.
Now, there's no way to predict a 500-yard performance, but P. Manning will likely approach the 400-yard benchmark. Tampa Bay has high-quality cornerbacks who excels better down the field. Manning has receivers whom he likes to use in more short-yardage situations. On these type of slant- and out-routes, Manning will lead his receiver and let them pick up yardage.
It'll be a field day for Manning and the Broncos.
Manning Prediction: 375 yards, three TDs, 0 INT
Cleveland Browns (Week 16)
The Browns have been better than advertised and don't receive nearly the respect they deserve. Still, all respect will be thrown out the window when Manning and the Broncos battle them in Week 16 with their eyes on the postseason.
The Broncos know they will need a ton of momentum entering the playoffs, and more importantly, will want to keep Manning in the groove of things.
Entering Week 9, Cleveland surrenders more than 260 yards per game and have allowed 15 touchdowns to date. These aren't the type of numbers you want to see with Joe Flacco on the horizon in Week 9, Tony Romo in Week 11 and Ben Roethlisberger in Week 12, so we will likely see that yardage total increased by the time Manning gets his shot at Cleveland later in the season.
With new ownership, the Browns' front office has been in disarray through eight weeks of the season. Toward the end, we can expect to see this team mentally check out as we watch Manning slice and dice his way to a monster day.
Manning Prediction: 315 yards, four TDs, 0 INT
These are just the juiciest matchups the Broncos have on their schedule. The rest of their schedule is favorable for the most part and will help propel Manning into the top five of this season's MVP candidates.
For those with Manning on their fantasy team, sit back and reap the benefits. This man is trending upward and is only getting hotter!
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