Rest was definitely in order for Manning, who was dealing with two sprained ankles just over a week ago, as was reported by ESPN's Chris Mortensen. The Denver Post's Mike Klis did point out that Manning took the bye week to rest up and heal those seemingly minor injuries, so don't expect the ankles to be a big deal this week.
At age 37, rest is huge for the Hall of Fame quarterback, as even minor injuries don't heal quite as quickly at Manning's age. Now that he's had his rest, Manning will make the stretch run of the season in better and stronger shape than he likely was in after playing in every game for the first eight weeks.
In his last three games, Manning hit marks that were uncharacteristic of his dominance earlier in the season.
Against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 6, Manning threw for a season-low 295 yards against one of the worst teams in the league. In Week 7 versus the Indianapolis Colts, Manning completed just 59 percent of his throws, and in Week 8, he tossed three picks against the Washington Redskins—both of those totals were his worst of the season.
What was particularly troubling was the game against Indy, in which Manning didn't look like himself, as it seemed he had issues pushing off and getting the most behind his throws.
The next week came, and Manning looked great in practice, but even his teammates admitted he looked like he needed the break, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports:
“He was throwing absolute darts on Thursday and Friday,” one teammate said. “In the Jacksonville game, he got hit a lot early, and he's been knocked around a lot the past couple of weeks, but anytime you ask him how he's doing, you know what he's going to say—‘Fine.' That's how he is. He's so tough. But for as much as he's been knocked around, he looked great once he got back to practice this week.”
The Broncos host the Redskins Sunday, before enjoying the bye week in Week 9, which is clearly coming at a great time for their Hall of fame quarterback. “I know Peyton could use the break right now,” one teammate said. “We all could.”
Bear in mind Manning won two of those three contests, and the loss was his team's first of the season. Only Manning can be held to such a standard as making people concerned after throwing for 1,035 yards, nine touchdowns and five picks in three games.
In fact, pretty much any other team in the league would take those numbers from its signal-caller, which just goes to show how great Manning is and how high expectations are.
But don't expect many struggles this week, as the Broncos look to exploit a Chargers defense that is allowing 275 yards per game, good enough for No. 27 in the NFL. Even if the Chargers send extra defenders into coverage, the Broncos can run the ball with Knowshon Moreno in order to keep San Diego honest.
The biggest key to stopping Manning will be to get pressure on him and compile some sacks throughout the course of the game.
That blueprint has been birthed over the course of Manning's career, and it's no surprise the Colts were able to keep the Broncos in check long enough to win by finishing with four sacks, nine pass deflections and 10 QB hits.
Success like that is exactly what the Chargers need in this game, but it isn't likely to happen.
Not only are the Broncos allowing the second-fewest sacks this season with a banged up offensive line (11), but the Chargers are tied for 21st in the league in total sacks on defense. Even getting a hand on passes hasn't been a strong suit for San Diego, as it ranks tied for No. 27 in that category.
So, unless the unexpected happens, the Chargers won't be able to get enough pressure on Manning to force him into mistakes or rattle him enough to render him ineffective. Pressure doesn't even guarantee an unsuccessful Manning, though, as the 37-year-old's intelligence can easily outsmart even the most vicious pass rush, as he moves around in the pocket to give himself a chance to extend plays.
San Diego just hasn't shown enough in its defensive front to prove it can do what's necessary to stop Manning and the Broncos passing attack. It should be a long, painful day for the Chargers defense and their fans as Manning tears them to pieces en route to victory.
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