Peyton Manning has brought excitement back to the quarterback position in Denver. The type of excitement that hasn't been around since the glory days of John Elway. Broncos fans everywhere rejoiced when Elway brought Manning to Denver in the offseason, and bit their fingernails in anticipation of his first throw in practice and him taking his first hit in an NFL game in over a year.
Manning has led the Broncos to a six-game winning streak, an 8-3 record and first place in the AFC West. But his performance lately has been worrisome.
Is the rust beginning to show? Is he tired? Or is it something bigger?
Manning was completing roughly 65 percent of his passes until two weeks ago. In the last two games, Manning has completed less than 60 percent of his passes. In those two games, the Broncos squeaked by with close wins, with the win against Kansas City being most worrisome.
Manning had a rough time getting the offense going against the Chiefs' defense. The Broncos only had 10 possessions, converting three of those into points. It also took until the last possession in the first half to score. Manning averaged seven yards per completion and scored a measly 17 points against the worst team in the NFL. Teams who are poised to make a Super Bowl appearance shouldn't have a hard time beating the Chiefs.
Interceptions are another problem. Although Manning threw two touchdown passes in the win at Kansas City, he also threw an interception. Since his less-than-spectacular performance against Atlanta in Week 2, when he threw three interceptions, Manning has thrown three in Weeks 3-9. Manning has thrown an interception in each of the last two games.
Should the Broncos and their fans be worried?
With five games remaining, the Broncos are five games ahead in the AFC West. I'm not at all saying there is even a minuscule chance the Broncos could lose five straight, but I'm a little worried. Has Manning done too much too soon? Will he be too tired for a long run in the playoffs?
The defense is doing a great job of making sure Manning gets as much rest as possible between possessions. The offense just needs to protect Manning more, allowing him to have more time to make good plays that aren't forced or rushed. Manning cannot have another concussion scare like he did at Kansas City this late in the season.
If the Broncos want to make a long run in the playoffs—and make it to the Super Bowl—Manning will have to return to his Weeks 3-9 greatness in these last few games of the regular season. There isn't room for interceptions or bad games if the Broncos want home-field advantage in the playoffs. The Broncos shouldn't worry if Manning can return to his MVP-like play, but if not, it could be a rough playoff run.