Manning had a miraculous season leading the Broncos to the No. 1 seed in the AFC, throwing for nearly 4,700 yards to go along with 37 touchdowns after missing all of 2011 while recovering from neck surgery. He is a leading candidate for Comeback Player of the Year as well as Most Valuable Player—going head-to-head against Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson for both awards.
Manning has been as close to perfect as one could come this season. Of the three losses Denver has on its tab, only one was Manning’s fault—a Week 2 matchup at the Atlanta Falcons.
The other two losses—in Week 3 against the Houston Texans and Week 5 at the New England Patriots—Manning was flawless. In the two games, he combined to throw more than 600 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions.
Manning will have a familiar foe opposing him on Saturday in the Ravens, a team he’s played nine times in his career. As the No. 5 pass offense goes up against the No. 16 pass defense, Manning will clearly have an edge on paper—on the field, though, has yet to be determined.
Manning has already beaten the Ravens this season, a 34-17 victory in Baltimore just around one month ago. In the win, Manning didn’t have a spectacular game—throwing for 204 yards and one touchdown—but it was still enough to win.
Now that Manning has already seen the Baltimore defense after his year on the sideline—granted, the Ravens didn’t have linebacker Ray Lewis on the field at the time—he has an even bigger advantage.
If the Ravens come out with a similar look this time around, they’ll get completely destroyed. Even if Baltimore changes a few things up, the odds are still very much against them. Manning has had a lot of success against them in his career, averaging 275 yards and two touchdowns per game.
Manning has thrown for at least 300 yards in nine of the 16 games he’s played in this season and averages less than one interception per game. He is nearly the most accurate passer in the game—percentage points behind Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. The Ravens aren’t going to have many opportunities to take advantage of a Manning slip-up to say the least.
Manning’s chances of winning this Divisional Round matchup and advancing to the AFC Championship Game are extremely high and for good reason.
Manning is unlike any other quarterback in the NFL, and even though the Ravens know this, Manning will remind them on Saturday.