When the Denver Broncos signed the four-time MVP, the offense upgraded from a quarterback that completed only 46.5 percent of his attempts to one of the most accurate passers of all time. So far this season, Manning has completed 68.5 percent of his passes.
The difference has transformed the entire team.
Eric Decker led the team in receiving last season with 612 yards. This year, he is on pace for 1,106 receiving yards. However, this difference is nothing compared to teammate Demaryius Thomas.
The talented third-year receiver out of Georgia Tech had shown potential in each of his first two seasons but has never blossomed into a consistent threat. That has changed this season, as he is currently third in the NFL with 679 receiving yards.
After having nine plays of 20 yards or longer last season, he already has 16 such plays in seven games this year.
Additionally, the offensive line is averaging more than one less sack per game this year compared to last.
It all stems from Manning's overall knowledge about the game. He is so well prepared coming into every play that he puts everyone on his offense in the right position to succeed.
To this point, the change has not shown up in the standings. Although the Broncos are in first place at 4-3, the winning percentage leaves a lot to be desired from an MVP candidate. The good news is that better days are on the way.
Denver's three losses so far have been to the Houston Texans, Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots. These are three of the most talented teams in the NFL and have combined to go 18-4 through Week 8.
Conversely, the final nine teams on the schedule have a combined 22-42 record, equal to a 34 percent winning percentage. The Baltimore Ravens are the only team remaining on the schedule with a winning record.
There is no reason that this team cannot turn this schedule into 11-12 wins and a potential bye in the first round of the playoffs.
At that point, it would be hard to deny Manning his fifth career MVP award.
Matt Ryan has had a solid start to the year, but he is unlikely to sustain a quarterback rating that is 13 points above his career mark.
Tom Brady might be hurt by his defense too much to keep winning games at a consistent level. It is unfortunate, but that is enough to hurt one's MVP candidacy in most years.
That leaves Manning, who currently leads the NFL with a quarterback rating of 109. His statistics are close to the best years in his career and he seems to be getting better as the year progresses.
Few could have predicted that the 36-year-old quarterback would be able to return to this level so soon after missing an entire season with a neck injury. However, the future Hall of Famer has returned to form and is tearing defenses apart once again.
Manning has made his team better since his arrival and is currently more important to his team than anyone else in the NFL. That will make him the 2012 Most Valuable Player.
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