Peyton Manning became perhaps the biggest NFL free agent ever last spring. After weighing several options he decided to join the Denver Broncos, likely in part to avoid joining his brother in the NFC.
A playoff clash between Peyton and Eli Manning would need to wait until a Super Bowl. But facing Andrew Luck, the player the Indianapolis Colts chose over the heart of their franchise, seems destined to happen much sooner.
The comparisons between Manning and Luck thus far in 2012 are uncanny. Both have led their teams to a 5-3 record. Both are the cornerstone of their respective offenses, and they've each passed for 2,404 yards.
That's about where the similarities end this season, but there are other intriguing comparisons between the two as rookie quarterbacks.
Only 2 QBs have ever had 4 300-y games in their rookie seasons -- Andrew Luck + Peyton Manning ... But, sure, RG3 is rookie of the year.— Rick Reilly (@ReillyRick) November 5, 2012
The rest of the season stats tilt heavily in Manning's favor. He has 20 touchdowns and just six interceptions while completing 69.5 percent of his passes.
Manning leads the NFL with an impressive quarterback rating of 108.6. Granted, that falls well short of Aaron Rodgers' 2011 mark of 122.5, but Manning is well ahead of his 2010 mark of 91.9. His best season was 2004 when he threw 49 touchdowns and 10 interceptions and posted a rating of 121.1.
Luck's rating is low even compared to a pair of other rookie quarterbacks. He sits at 79.0, 25th in the NFL, while Robert Griffin III is ninth with 93.9 and Russell Wilson is 11th at 87.2.
But Luck is steadily improving. He has 10 touchdowns with eight interceptions on the season, and two of his three best appearances have come in the last two weeks.
The biggest issue with his play is a completion percentage of just 56.5. He hit 60 percent in just one of his first six games, but he's surpassed that important line both of the last two weeks. He added three points to his season percentage in those two games.
Colts fans that would like a more thorough comparison of the two could very well get that opportunity during the Wild Card round of the 2012 playoffs.
The Colts are sitting fifth in the AFC while Denver currently controls the No. 4 seed. This would send Indianapolis to Mile High the first weekend in January.
A playoff appearance would be an amazing transition for a Colts team that won just two games last season. Indianapolis is 7-4 going back to the end of 2011 and seems to have made a much quicker transition than anyone expected.
Luck and the offense is a big part of their success.
The Colts are fourth in the NFL in yards per game, averaging 391. The Broncos are one spot ahead of them at 399.5 yards.
But Indianapolis has struggled to put points on the board, falling to the bottom 10 in the league with 19.9 points-per-game. Manning is converting his yards to points, checking in at fourth with 29.4 points-per-game.
Manning is close to his prior form and is proving he's still the best quarterback in the NFL. Colts fans haven't forgotten about the role he played for their franchise, and if the playoff picture holds then he'll give them one more reminder of just what he meant to the team.
With both of these teams on the rise there could be more than one playoff battle in their futures.
Darin Pike is a writer for Bleacher Report's Breaking News Team and a Featured Columnist covering the NFL and the Seattle Seahawks.
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