Two interceptions in his last outing couldn't stop Denver Broncos QB Peyton Manning from winning yet another game and further solidifying his status as the clear-cut NFL MVP entering Week 10.
Three touchdowns and an otherwise outstanding performance by Manning in Cincinnati kept the Broncos rolling with their third consecutive victory—along with his MVP bandwagon.
Even though he's still not at 100 percent after multiple neck surgeries kept him out for the entire 2011 season, the 15-year veteran has found a way to have the best all-around season of any QB in the league.
It would be crazy not to consider Manning the front-runner for comeback player of the year. Even a slightly sub-par season by Manning's high standards would warrant the award. But incredibly, the four-time MVP has had something more in store, much to the delight of Broncos fans.
Such a heavy investment by the franchise could have easily backfired, but that has turned out not to be the case at all. The numbers so far: 69.5 completion percentage, 20 TDs, six interceptions and a league-leading 108.6 passer rating.
The most ironic stat is definitely the 2,404 passing yards—the exact number of his successor in Indianapolis, Andrew Luck. For comparison's sake—and for TV ratings—everyone would love to see the AFC standings to hold steady where they are come season's end.
If the playoffs began today, Luck would be traveling to Sports Authority Field at Mile High to take on the Broncos.
The association with Luck aside, Manning's presence has fueled the development of receivers Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, both of whom were drafted in 2010. After expected bumps in their rookie seasons and a run-heavy offense led by Tim Tebow last year, Year 3 is proving to be a big leap for one of the premier emerging duos in the NFL.
This week's matchup against the Carolina Panthers, however, may prove to be a bump in the road for Manning's thunderous MVP campaign.
The Broncos signal-caller has yet to face that Ron Rivera influenced defense due to his hiatus last season. Carolina's defense has definitely made a leap in its second year under the former San Diego Chargers defensive coordinator.
ESPN Stats & Info has an interesting tidbit to offer, which is a further testament to Manning's regular season dominance:
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 8, 2012
With the way Rivera has confused Manning at times in the past, it's feasible to think that the Panthers could pull the upset.
The flight to his fifth MVP may encounter some turbulence in Carolina this weekend, but don't expect it to crash Manning and the Broncos.
A soft slew of secondaries are on tap for the remainder of the season, which will likely lead to the Broncos' second consecutive playoff appearance, as well as another bundle of distinguished regular season hardware for Manning.