Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning defied even the most optimistic expectations he had coming into the 2012 season. He has a great chance to win his fifth career MVP award after leading the team to the best record in the AFC.
Yet none of that matters in the postseason.
Fair or unfair, NFL players, specifically quarterbacks, are only judged by what happens in the postseason. For all he can do in the regular season, Manning has been a mediocre postseason quarterback, especially if you use the almighty wins and losses barometer.
In his career, Manning has a 9-10 record. His passing stats are solid but not spectacular, at least by his lofty standards. He has completed 63 percent of his passes for 5,389 yards, 29 touchdowns and 19 interceptions.
There was a time when Manning was thought of as one of the great choke artists in all of sports. He could never beat Florida when he was at Tennessee. It took him the longest time to beat New England when he was with Indianapolis.
People don't like to talk about the fact that maybe the other team was just better than Manning's team. It has to be about the quarterbacks, always and forever.
Perhaps the choker label will never completely leave Manning. Yahoo! Sports felt compelled to ask the question of Manning going back to being a choke artist following the Colts' loss to New Orleans in Super Bowl XLIV.
But this season is different for Manning.
All those seasons he spent in Indianapolis, even when the team put together great regular season records, it never felt like the Colts were the best team in the league. They got by with an amazing offense and a good-enough defense.
From 2002-2010, the last nine years Manning played games with the Colts, only twice (2002 and 2007) did the defense finish in the top 10 in yards and points allowed.
This year's Broncos team finished second in yards allowed and fourth in points allowed. They are, on paper, the most complete team in the AFC. Even their running game, which had been a soft spot, has taken off recently with at least 140 yards gained in three of the last four games.
There are no excuses for Manning to fail with another early postseason exit this year. The matchups favor him, as the Broncos will play either Indianapolis or Baltimore next Sunday. Neither team should be able to stick with Denver at Sports Authority Field.
Manning's place in NFL history is secure, but he has been able to rewrite a lot of perceptions about him with his incredible comeback performance during the regular season. We all marvel at the things he can do between September and December.
Now that January is here, it is time for Manning to prove that he truly is the greatest quarterback of this generation. All that counts in the NFL is what happens in the postseason. He has one ring to show for all his accomplishments, but he has never played for a team this good heading into the playoffs.
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