Peyton Manning hasn't shown much rust after missing all of last season, and he's not going to slow down anytime soon.
The All-Pro quarterback faces a much easier road in the second half of the season, which could create some downright frightening statistics for the Most Valuable Player candidate.
In his last five games, Manning has 15 touchdowns and three interceptions. He's been lights out, leading the Broncos to wins in four of their last five games. He's had some help, but Manning is the one orchestrating Denver's successful season so far.
The Broncos play the Panthers on Sunday, and that actually won't be easy for Manning, although it's hard to say that. No matter how good a pass defense is supposed to be, Manning is better. He's just too good, too skilled and too smart. Carolina is 13th against the pass, but he's a freight train right now, destroying anything in his path.
Manning will face one top-15 pass defense in the second half of the season, besides Carolina, and that's the Kansas City Chiefs. Even then, it's hard to say how the Chiefs will play on any given week.
Other than that, Manning is looking at the 18th (San Diego), 21st (Oakland), 22nd (Baltimore), 23rd (Cleveland) and 32nd-ranked (Tampa Bay) pass defenses in the league. The Chargers, even though they are rated the highest, were already destroyed by Manning once this season.
Once Manning gets on rolls like this, it's nearly impossible to stop him. He's developed a rapport with his new receivers. He has a run game to support him and a defense that keeps his team in the game and motivated. The current hot streak has taught this team how to win together, and it's only going to get better.
Whether it be early-game dominance or late-game heroics, Manning has it going on. He hasn't missed a beat, and that means his cerebral, surgeon-like style is back to dissecting defenses from every which way.
The NFL's only hope was that Manning wasn't healthy, was rusty or never figured things out with his new team. Now that we know none of those things are true, the direction things are heading is obvious.
He's going to contend for his fifth NFL MVP award. He's going to have Denver in the playoffs, and no one is going to want to play this team anytime soon.
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