Peyton Manning may have already wrapped up the NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award with his stellar 2012 campaign after sitting out the entire 2011 season. But now it seems he's closing in on a fifth career league MVP award.
The 36-year-old Denver Broncos quarterback has thrown for more than 3,800 yards and 30 touchdowns in 13 games this season, and ranks among the NFL's elite in all of the major passing categories.
But in order to seize the MVP and to please fantasy owners, Manning will need to finish the regular season strong.
Here we project Manning's numbers over the Broncos' final three games of 2012.
Week 15: At Baltimore Ravens
Week 15's potential AFC playoff preview between the Broncos and Ravens in Baltimore is sure to be Manning's toughest matchup the rest of the regular season.
Although Baltimore's defense ranks 23rd defending the pass in terms of fewest yards allowed (247), it ranks first in fewest passing touchdowns surrendered (10). The Ravens' secondary has also forced 13 interceptions this season coming into Week 14.
But historically, Manning has had success against Baltimore. In his last three regular season appearances against the Ravens, he has completed a combined 54-of-76 passes for 819 yards, eight touchdowns and just two interceptions. That equates to an average stat line of 18-of-25 for 273 yards and roughly three touchdowns.
However, Manning hasn't faced Baltimore since 2009 when he was with the Indianapolis Colts, and the Ravens are always a better team at home. I look for him to rack up Manning-like yards but struggle to find the end zone.
Week 15 Projection: 21-of-36, 266 yards, one touchdown, one interception
Week 16: vs. Cleveland Browns
The biggest strength of the Cleveland Browns' secondary is its ability to take the ball away by forcing interceptions. The Browns have 14 interceptions entering Week 14.
Otherwise, Cleveland ranks below average in pass defense, giving up roughly 252 yards through the air per week, and 19 passing touchdowns through its first 12 games. Opposing quarterbacks are also completing slightly more than 62 percent of their passes against the Browns as well.
I expect Manning to have his best game of the final three in Week 16 at home against Cleveland. The Browns will have very little to play for and Manning and the Broncos could be aiming for a first-round bye or even home-field advantage depending on what result they get against the Ravens in Baltimore.
Look for Manning to complete a high percentage of passes for around 300 yards and a handful of touchdowns. It won't be a perfect game from No. 18, but it'll be pretty close.
Week 16 Projection: 27-of-34, 305 yards, three touchdowns, one interception
Week 17: vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Manning had a tough time against the Chiefs in the two teams' first meeting of the season at Arrowhead back in Week 12, completing just 22-of-37 passes for 285 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
Manning's 90.5 passer rating in that game was his worst since Week 3 vs. Houston.
Although Kansas City's defense is ranked eighth against the pass this season in terms of fewest yards allowed (220), no team has given up more passing touchdowns through the first 13 weeks of the season than the Chiefs (25).
Considering that Manning has thrown for three touchdowns in each of his last four home games, one would have to anticipate he'd throw for at least three in this matchup, assuming the Broncos don't rest him for the playoffs.
Week 17 Projection: 25-of-40, 268 yards, three touchdowns
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