Peyton Manning's Hot Start Makes Him Front-Runner for 5th NFL MVP

Jamal CollierAnalyst IIIOctober 3, 2013

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 15:  Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos celebrates a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on September 15, 2013 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Denver Broncos defeated the New York Giants 41-23. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

After just one month, it looks like Peyton Manning has this MVP thing wrapped up.

After missing the entire 2011 season, the September AFC Player of the Month spent 2012 regaining his health, throwing velocity and familiarity with the live speed of the NFL game. His new squad started 2-3 as a result before rattling off 11 straight wins before losing to the Baltimore Ravens in double overtime in the playoffs.

During that run, Manning made a strong case to win his fifth MVP award. One Adrian Peterson made a stronger one and ultimately walked away with the trophy.

Manning is playing like he was offended by the result.

Through four games, he has gone 117-of-156 passing for 1,470 yards, 16 touchdowns and no interceptions. He’s completing 75 percent of his total throws, including an obscene 84.5 percent in his last two games.

His seventh touchdown pass in Week 1, a 78-yard Demaryius Thomas production, was his first completion of longer than 75 yards since 2009. He’s averaging 9.42 yards per attempt, which—aside from being nearly a first down each time he throws the football—is a quarter-yard more than his personal record of 9.17 in a single season.

That record was set at the same time as his then-record 49-touchdown season. Tom Brady since threw 50 scoring strikes in 2007, but Manning is currently on pace for 64, which would obliterate Brady’s mark. 

At this time last year, Manning was on pace for 32 touchdown passes. He finished with 37. His 16 in 2013 are already an NFL record through four games.

Even while his present numbers favorably compare to his MVP stats, the Denver Broncos’ success underscores his 2013 bid for a fifth trophy. 

Losing a starting left tackle usually throws a wrench in an offense’s plans. Manning kept dishing out dimes after Ryan Clady—who just signed for $33 million guaranteed—was placed on injured reserve. Meanwhile, Denver has allowed two sacks in two games since.

DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 23:  Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos warms up prior to their game against the Oakland Raiders at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on September 23, 2013 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

The Broncos have 5.2 percent more total yards of offense than second-place Philadelphia (1,932 to 1,835), 7.5 percent more passing yards than second-place New Orleans Saints (1,455 to 1,353) and 18.4 percent more passing first downs than second-place Atlanta (77 to 65). They’re also converting 55.3 percent of their third downs, which also leads the league by a wide margin.

The San Diego Chargers are the only other team with a 50 percent success rate.

Of course, Denver is winning games because of this offense—these aren’t garbage-time stats. The Broncos are winning by an average margin of 22 points per game.

Manning's 2009 Colts boasted an average victory margin of 10.4 points in his last MVP season—counting just the games they won—on their way to a record of 14-2. Counting the two losses (Weeks 16 and 17), that mark falls to 6.8.

Drew Brees and Tom Brady have each quarterbacked their respective pass-happy teams to 4-0 starts. Brady has had more adversity to deal with regarding his arsenal, and Brees is on pace for his third consecutive 40-touchdown campaign, but Manning is simply on a higher plateau than those two.


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