Peyton Manning has successfully come back from a year out of football, blown away everyone's expectations and is a legitimate MVP candidate at this point in the season.
Denver routed the Carolina Panthers 36-14 on Sunday behind an efficient but unspectacular performance from Manning. He completed 27-of-38 passes for 301 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions.
It did not take long for Manning to fall into a rhythm this year, and he has completed at least 70 percent of his passes while posting a quarterback rating higher than 100 in each of his last seven games.
His performance thus far is undoubtedly impressive, but is it enough to make him the front-runner for MVP? Here is everything you need to know about Manning’s place in the race for the NFL’s most prestigious individual award.
Why He Is the Front-runner
It is a safe bet at this point that Manning will win the NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award, but his case for MVP is less certain.
Heading into this week, he had an NFL-best 108.6 passer rating. He also ranked first in the NFL with a 69.5 completion percentage while checking in at fifth with 2,404 passing yards and third with 20 touchdown passes.
These are certainly MVP-caliber statistics, and he has led his team to a 6-3 record while weathering the toughest part of the schedule. With games against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Atlanta Falcons, Houston Texans and New England Patriots out of the way, the Broncos have just two matchups left against teams with winning records.
Manning has among the most impressive stats of any quarterback while leading his team to the top of its division, and doing it against an extremely difficult schedule. He has been both a leader and a prolific passer, and those are two qualities that signify an MVP.
Why He Still Has Work To Do
While Manning’s overall statistics have been impressive, he has not been all that successful against quality opponents.
In the Broncos’ four games against teams that currently have a winning record, they are 1-3. Manning’s worst two performances of the year came against Houston and Atlanta.
Both of these quarterbacks have comparable statistics to Manning, and their ability to win against top teams may give them a slight edge in many voters’ eyes. If Manning wants to take a leap forward in this race, he must have quality performances and lead victories over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Baltimore Ravens—the two teams left on Denver’s schedule with winning records.
With quarterbacks winning all but two of the last 11 MVP awards, it is highly likely that another passer will be honored as the NFL’s best player again this season. Currently, there are three QBs outperforming their peers.
Ryan, Rodgers and Manning have all been a cut above the competition. Ryan and the Falcons rolled to an 8-0 record before finally losing this week, while Rodgers and Manning each started the season 2-3, but each have their teams in the midst of four-game winning streaks.
If all three players continue on their current track, it will be Rodgers who takes the award. He is on pace to lead the league in touchdown passes by a comfortable margin, and has been having success despite a rash of injuries to his teammates and sub-par protection.
With all three players likely to finish with similar statistics, the decisive factor will be the fact that Rodgers has been able to do the most with the least help. He will win his second consecutive MVP.