Peyton Manning's Historically Brilliant Season Goes Beyond MVP Award

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Peyton Manning's Historically Brilliant Season Goes Beyond MVP Award
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

For those who want to sit and argue about who the 2012 NFL MVP is through 10 weeks, we can put the kibosh on that now. It's Peyton Manning—and it's not even that close.

It obviously goes without saying that Denver Broncos quarterback has been absolutely sensational thus far. Leading the team to a 6-3 record and a comfortable lead in the AFC West, Manning has helped hatch an elite team out of what is otherwise a very mediocre division.

Coming into Week 11, Manning's counting stats are also off the charts. 

His 2,705 yards, 21 touchdowns and six interceptions translate to over 4,800 yards and 37 touchdowns against just 11 interceptions over the course of the season. Considering the Broncos have played a relatively tough schedule, that makes Manning's numbers all the more impressive.

And they only stand to get better. According to Football Outsiders, Denver's remaining schedule is by far the easiest in the NFL. What that means is that the Broncos should coast to the AFC West crown and Manning should emerge as a runaway MVP barring some sort of catastrophe. 

However, when putting the season in perspective, it goes far beyond counting stats and an MVP award. If Manning's 2012 campaign keeps trucking ahead as it has been, it may be one of the most historically shocking seasons in NFL history.

Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

For instance, let's take a look at Manning's advanced metrics through nine games. 

It's a relatively small sample size, but Manning's 84.0 QBR would be his best in the metric's data window, which stretches back to 2008. In terms of Football Outsiders' DVOA metric, Manning's current 36.8 value over average percentage is the best he's had since 2007—and he still has six games remaining to raise that bar. 

All told, Manning being good wouldn't have been that shocking. Quarterbacks his age (36) aren't expected to have a massive drop in effectiveness, metrically speaking. However, they almost never ascend to in-their-prime heights, either. 

You also cannot mention Manning's ascent in Denver without contrasting it with the fall of Tim Tebow. It's a belabored point, but John Elway chose an older, injured quarterback over a 25-year-old player who was absolutely adored, led his team to a 7-4 record down the stretch and won a playoff game.

It's such a unique situation it's almost impossible to quantify in a historic perspective. Manning obviously had the pedigree, but there are few (if any) instances where choosing the older player has worked out for a franchise. 

In fact, Manning's 2012 campaign has just two true comparisons: Joe Montana's 1993 season with the Kansas City Chiefs and Brett Favre's 2009 season with the Minnesota Vikings.

George Rose/Getty Images

Montana threw for 2,144 yards and 13 touchdowns against seven interceptions for the Chiefs in 11 games that regular season. But it was his two come-from-behind playoff wins that will forever go down in Kansas City folklore.

Until we get to the postseason, the Favre comparison seems more apt. The ol' gunslinger threw for 4,202 yards and 33 touchdowns against seven interceptions and completed a career-high 68.4 percent of his passes in Minnesota. 

Of course, that is until you consider one small factor: Manning had four neck procedures in the last two years. 

This is a guy who still experienced extreme difficulty throwing to the right side of the field in August. And who had some wondering whether we'd ever see him throw with velocity after tossing three interceptions in the first quarter against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 2.

However, instead of falling under the weight of the comeback, Manning battled back and again stands at the quarterback mountaintop. 

The only question remaining is whether he can keep firing on all cylinders. A brilliant end to the regular season and Manning will capture his first Comeback Player of the Year Award, his record fifth NFL MVP and will cement his place as the greatest regular season quarterback in league history.

A deep playoff run or (gasp) a Super Bowl ring and we may have to expand this conversation even further.

But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. Instead, let's appreciate Manning's 2012 season for what it's been so far: a historical anomaly that we may never see again.

 

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