2011 NFL Predictions: 7 Ways Eli Manning's Season Will Be Better Than Peyton's

Sam HymanContributor IIIAugust 28, 2011

2011 NFL Predictions: 7 Ways Eli Manning's Season Will Be Better Than Peyton's

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    Anybody who grew up with an older sibling knows that the comparisons are never-ending.  

    The comparisons can easily become frustrating.  How frustrating must those comparisons be when the older sibling plays the same sport?  How about the same position?  What if that older sibling just happens to be the best player on the planet?

    Sounds tough, right?  Welcome to the life of Eli Manning.

    Since childhood, Eli Manning has had to deal with trying to fill big brother Peyton's shoes.  

    From trying to match high school records, to trying to fulfill collegiate expectations, to, most recently, trying to become the most dominant player in the NFL, the younger Manning has had some pretty high expectations.

    While Eli's career to this point would objectively be viewed as a success, fans never cease to remind him, he is no Peyton.

    Eventually Peyton's play will have to regress and whether Eli's play improves or merely remains the same, the two will converge.

    Eli will ultimately do what every little brother always desired. He will surpass his big brother.  The real question is: When will he do it?

Who Knows When Peyton Will Actually Play

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    The NFL consecutive games started list reads as follows:

    1. Brett Favre: 297
    2. Peyton Manning: 208
    3. Ron Jaworski: 116
    4. Tom Brady: 111
    5. Joe Ferguson: 107
    6. Eli Manning: 103

    Of those top six streaks, only two are active: Peyton Manning, and Eli Manning.  If you believe the reports that are currently making the rounds, that list soon may have just one Manning on it.

    Peyton Manning is currently rehabing from offseason neck surgery.  While all parties are hopeful, even Manning himself has stated that he is not fully optimistic about his chances of starting against Houston Week 1.

    Even if Peyton is able to make it onto the field on September 11, it is highly likely that he will not be back to his same self for at least the first three weeks of the season.

    Prior to the 2008 season, Manning had surgery on his left knee.  Much like this season, Peyton missed all of the preseason and was questionable entering the season.  Although he never missed a game and even ended up winning his third MVP award, Manning's performance through Week 3 of the season was not nearly up to his standards (QB rating: 73.1, TD-INT: 3-4, W-L: 1-2).

    Peyton may prove everybody wrong once again and play Week 1 of the season, but to expect him to not start slow out of the gate may prove to be quite naïve. 

Eli Is Not as Far Behind as One Might Think

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    Peyton Manning is a first-ballot Hall of Famer.  He is arguably a top five quarterback of all time.  Even though Peyton has statistically regressed over the last five years, he still remains a top three quarterback on a yearly basis.  That being said, Peyton has regressed over the last few seasons.

    While Peyton has been regressing with age, little brother Eli has been improving consistently.  Yes, he did lead the league in interceptions last season but he also had to deal with the most injury-plagued receivers in the league.

    To make a long story short, the most praised QB in the league (Peyton) and the most criticized QB in the league (Eli) are not that far apart at all.

    TD (League Rank) INT (LR) Y/A (LR) Comp% (LR) QB Rating (LR)
    Peyton 33 (2T) 17 (6T) 6.9 (18T) 66.3 (2) 91.9 (10)
    Eli 31 (3) 25 (1) 7.4 (9T) 62.9 (9) 85.3 (17)




    Maybe Peyton is right were you expected him to be, but very few people probably would have guessed that Eli was so close behind.  Given a healthy and constant supporting cast, Eli can only be expected to further improve while Peyton's age should continue to catch up with him.

Eli Is Still in His Prime

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    The common rule of thumb is that athletes reach their physical prime at the age of 27.  Historical statistics tend to support that theory.  For quarterbacks in the past decade, the performance prime has spanned from 27-30.

      TD-INT Y/A QB Rating
    Manning 137-39 8.2 105.9
    Brady 128-48 7.7 98.1
    Brees 122-57 7.8 97.3
    McNabb 81-34 7.6 91.2
    Warner 98-53 9.1 103.4






    Next season will be Eli Manning's 30-year-old season.  By the trends, Eli should continue to progress as he is still in his prime.  While he may or may not improve any further beyond where he currently stands, it would be against the trend for Eli to regress at any point this season.

    On the other hand...

Peyton Is Leaving His Prime

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    Peyton Manning is surely past his prime.  That statement in no way demeans the quality of his play or insinuates that he is no longer a top-tier player.  Quite simply, it means that fans should expect the production of No. 18 to decline from here on out.

    Last season, Peyton regressed in interceptions, yards/attempt, quarterback rating and completion percentage.  Omitting a stellar 2009 season, he has actually gotten worse in all major statistical categories every year since 2006.

    For years, Peyton Manning has exceeded expectations.  It has always been nearly impossible to predict his production because he always seems to raise the bar.  Eventually this must change.  For that reason, it must be assumed that his decline will continue and that maybe, just maybe, this is the year that father time catches up and the car loses its ability to reach that next gear.

A Good Running Game Makes Everything Easier

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    Statistics do not always portray the facts.  Everything would be much easier if they did but sometimes what it seen on the field and what the numbers say just do not match up.

    It is clear to even a casual football fan that a balanced offense attack is more effective than a predictable one.  In more precise language, a running back will struggle to find holes if there is no threat of the deep ball and a quarterback will have trouble finding open receivers and avoiding sacks if there is no threat of the run.

    Last season, the Indianapolis Colts rushing attack ranked 29th in the NFL.  The New York Giants ranked sixth.  It is safe to assume that neither of those rankings are due for a major change this season.

    The fact that the Giants' running game is exceptional while the Colts' is almost nonexistent says little about what each Manning will be able to do but it says a lot about how easy it will be to do it.

    Without a far inferior rushing attack, Peyton Manning will inevitably have a harder time putting up numbers than his baby brother Eli.

Peyton's Sacks Are Going Up, Eli's Sacks Are Going Down

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    The Manning men have never been mistaken for speedsters.  Archie, Peyton and Eli, for each of their respective careers, have had season averages of 146, 56 and 50 total rushing yards.  Essentially, no one is turning on a Colts-Giants game to see a quarterback break a big run.

    While the Manning boys may never win any foot races, they both are renown for their pocket movement.  For years, Peyton has been one of the hardest quarterbacks in the league to hit and, in recent years, Eli has been joining the club.

    Defending against the sack is a two-part job.  It relies on both the quarterback's pocket awareness and footwork and on the quality of the offensive line's pass protection.

    Entering the 2011 season, the offensive line of both the Colts and the Giants have seen multiple changes on the offensive line.  While Eli Manning stands to benefit from projected improvements to an already formidable line, Peyton surely will be complaining about the highly questionable changes to an already struggling group.

    Common perception is that it is hard to effectively play the quarterback position when your on your back.  Last season, the Manning brothers were both sacked 16 times (tied for second in the NFL).  While Peyton is busy checking his health coverage in the new CBA, Eli should be expected to keep up that standing (pun standing) for the foreseeable future.

You Play to Win the Game

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    As Herm Edwards said: "You play to win the game" (Yes, that was the token cliché quote of the article).

    They say defense wins championships, but it is clear that the quarterback position is, in actuality, key to team success.  There must, of course, be a reason that the only position that win-loss records are kept for is the quarterback position.

    Last season both Manning brothers led their teams to 10-6 records.  Each also has one Super Bowl trophy on his resume.

    Entering this season, there is much debate over how well the Giants will fare, but most experts agree that the Colts are due to take a large step backwards.

    If quarterbacks are to be credited with wins and blamed for losses then it is only fare that the team success reflects on their individual value.  Even while playing in a much harder division, the Giants are predicted to go further than the Colts this season and, for that, Eli Manning deserves his praise.