Image by: Jeffrey Beall
By Thomas Stone
Just one year ago, Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning was wondering who he would play football for this season. His comeback from a neck injury was moving slow, and fans and pundits speculated if they would ever see Manning grace a football field again.
Their fears have been put to rest this season as Manning has led the Broncos to a record of 11-3. He’s second in the AFC in passing yards with 4,016 and has thrown 31 touchdowns to just 10 interceptions.
He’s having one of the best seasons of his career and his stats will only get better as the Broncos have games remaining against the Browns and Chiefs.
But there is reason for pause. The Broncos haven’t lost a game since Week 5 against New England and are in the midst of an nine-game win streak. They may actually be peaking to soon, says conventional wisdom.
The Broncos have beaten their last nine opponents by at least eight points. In fact, they are averaging almost 30 points per game, good enough for second in the league.
Manning’s Playoff Record Is Suspect
Manning is one of the best regular-season quarterbacks of all-time, but his postseason struggles are maybe the exact opposite of what he does in the season’s first 16 games.
In 19 career playoff games, Manning is just 9-10. He has a losing postseason record, is two percentage points off of his career completion percentage of 65, has an average quarterback rating of 88, and lost his last playoff game by one single point to the Jets back in 2010.
Even with the average numbers of his playoff career, Manning is still better than most NFL quarterbacks. Ask any NFL general manager to name three NFL quarterbacks they would love to have in the playoffs, and I guarantee that Manning is one of the three.
Image by: Craig Hawkins
But just think about the realities of a Denver championship for a moment. If the Broncos were to make it to the Super Bowl at the top of 2013 and win the rest of the games on their schedule, they would enter with a 14-game winning streak, including the playoffs.
Not only would Manning have to continue his stellar play from the regular season, but the Broncos would likely have to defeat the red hot New England Patriots, the tough-as-nails Houston Texans, and maybe his old team, the Indianapolis Colts.
Those three teams may represent the biggest problems for the Broncos. They lost to the Texans by six in Week 3, were beat the Patriots by 10 in Week 5, and didn’t play the Colts.
By no means am I saying that it’s impossible for the Broncos to win each game, but judging Manning by his past playoff success (or lack thereof) and the Broncos ability to keep their winning streak alive, fans may want to take their foot off the expectation throttle just a bit.
The Broncos have been a wonderful success story for 2012, but proceed with caution as the regular season morphs into the playoffs in January.