The NFL playoffs are, without question, a test of mental will as much as they are a physical bout. For a team to win and advance, its players must not only play to their physical limit but also push themselves into a zone of extreme concentration and toughness.
For most of the 2012 Denver Broncos, the playoffs are something that they had only watched on TV before last season. Even with an upset victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, followed by a manhandling by the New England Patriots last year, this Broncos squad is largely inexperienced when it comes to playoff hours logged. Peyton Manning is the one exception.
The 36-year-old man has spent quite a few Sundays playing professional football past Week 17. To be exact, Peyton Manning has payed 18 postseason games, including two Super Bowls. His record in these games: 9-10.
The most impressive fact about Peyton Manning and the playoffs is certainly how often he's been there. Manning has only not qualified for the postseason twice in his career (excluding his 2011 season which was spent on injured reserve, of course). This sheer consistency alone is a testament to Manning's prowess as a regular-season quarterback, yet for a man with such success between September and December, a 9-10 playoff record seems a bit underwhelming.
One aspect that's been consistent throughout Manning's playoff career is that he fairs much better at home than on the road. He's 6-4 at home, and only 2-5 on the road, with a split record of 1-1 in Super Bowls played on neutral grounds.
Besides being sharp at home, Manning's accuracy has also faltered a bit in his playoff career. Career-wise, Manning has thrown 429 touchdowns and only 208 interceptions, yet he's thrown 29 playoff touchdowns and 19 playoff interceptions, making for a much less favorable ratio. He also boasts a career passer rating of 95.5 and a playoff passer rating of only 88.4.
Manning's playoff stats are far from laughable or disastrous, yet there's no denying that the best Manning has not always been the playoff Manning. While Manning definitely has some playoff performances he'd like to forget, such as the sloppy 2003 loss to the New York Jets where he threw two picks and no touchdowns, Manning's experience is certainly an asset to the 2012 Broncos. Just like in any career, experience is often priceless, and a seasoned vet with a stacked resume is always valuable.
All of the 2012 Denver Broncos will have something to prove this playoff season. John Fox wants to join the elite club of coaches who have led multiple teams to Super Bowl appearances. (Membership is currently at five.) Wide receiver DeMaryius Thomas wants to show the country once again that he is a clutch, big-time threat. Veteran Willis McGahee, while being sidelined, would like to finally add a Super Bowl ring to his case of career winnings.
And then there's Peyton Manning. He's been here, done that. He's won a Super Bowl and he's lost one. What does he want this postseason?
Ever the perfectionist, Peyton wants to show his critics that he should be put in the discussion with Joe Montana and Tom Brady as a great postseason quarterback. He wants to improve his playoff passer rating and touchdown-to-interception ratio. He wants to win a second Super Bowl ring so that his younger brother Eli can't say that he has more. But more importantly than all of this, Peyton Manning wants to become the first quarterback to start and win a Super Bowl with two different teams.
That would be magical and legendary, and that is what Manning is looking to do this postseason. His experience will undoubtedly help him do so.