NFL morning after: Broncos keep winning with a shot Peyton Manning


Peyton Manning is a shell of his former self.

If you’ve watched the Broncos even a little bit this year, you can see that. This is not a matter of opinion, it’s a statement of fact. I would call him Michael Jordan with the Washington Wizards, except that wouldn’t be fair to Jordan, who averaged more than 20 points a game in his two seasons with the Wizards. Peyton Manning in 2015 is more like 42-year-old Willie Mays batting .211 with the 1973 New York Mets.

Willie Mays with the ’73 Mets is the standard shorthand we sportswriters use when we want to discuss a Hall of Famer who’s hanging on way past his prime, but when we make those comparisons we’re often talking about players on terrible teams, sometimes overlooking that the Mets actually went to the World Series in 1973. And that makes Manning and Mays an even better comparison, because Manning is a Hall of Famer hanging on while playing for a very good team.

Manning threw three interceptions yesterday to give him an NFL-high 10 picks this season. That’s the same number of interceptions he threw in the entire 2013 season, when he threw 55 touchdown passes. This season he has thrown just seven touchdown passes.

“We’re certainly not playing as well as we would like, but we’re playing well enough to win,” Manning said after the game.

Yes, the Broncos improved to 6-0 with yesterday’s win over the Browns, and that raises the big question: Can the Broncos keep winning with a shot Peyton Manning as their quarterback?

If by “keep winning,” we mean win the AFC West, I believe they absolutely can. Denver’s defense is outstanding — easily the best in the NFL. The Broncos already have a huge lead over the Raiders, Chargers and Chiefs in the AFC West, and there’s almost no chance of them getting caught. They’re going to be hosting a playoff game in Denver in January.

But if by “keep winning,” we mean win the Super Bowl, I don’t think so. This offense just isn’t good enough to win in January. Manning’s arm is so weak that he frequently throws short of the chains on third down, or floats deep passes where the Peyton of a couple years ago would sling them with velocity. And it doesn’t help that the Broncos’ offensive line is struggling to protect Manning, the running game is one of the worst in the NFL, and even the highly paid receiver Demaryius Thomas had two big drops on Sunday.

So while it’s great that the Broncos are finding ways to win with a shot Peyton Manning, let’s be honest: It’s going to stop. After their bye this week, the Broncos get the Packers next Sunday night and have games coming up against the Patriots and Bengals, and Denver won’t be able to beat good teams the way they beat the Browns yesterday. To beat a good team, the Broncos will need a good game from the offense, and this offense just isn’t ready to deliver.

Manning is among the greatest players in NFL history, and it would be wonderful to see him end his career with another title in a few months. But it’s far more likely that he’ll end his career with another playoff loss. He’s just not good enough anymore.

Here are my other observations from Sunday:

Lions, Bears and officials were ugly. If you see the score, “Lions 37, Bears 34 in overtime” and think that sounds like a good game, you didn’t see yesterday’s Lions-Bears game. In reality, it was an ugly game, filled with mistakes by both teams and even more mistakes by the officials, who were just brutally bad. At one point the officials gave Golden Tate a touchdown that defied everything we thought we knew about the NFL’s catch rules. At another point the officials negated a Tate touchdown with a ridiculous offensive pass interference penalty on Calvin Johnson. The officials also took way too long to make calls, including huddling for what seemed like forever before calling an intentional grounding penalty on Matthew Stafford late in the fourth quarter. The bad officiating in this game won’t get as much attention as the high-profile mistakes the officials have made on the last two Monday nights, but the league simply must get its officiating problems fixed.

Was Brandon Marshall right about Chris Ivory? Marshall, the Jets’ veteran wide receiver, called Ivory the best running back in the NFL last week. I thought that sounded like hyperbole, but Ivory was amazing yesterday: He had 20 carries for 146 yards and a touchdown, and he also caught all three of the passes thrown to him and added 50 receiving yards. Ivory is averaging 115 rushing yards a game, best in the NFL.

Dan Quinn was a huge loss in Seattle. Quinn, who was the Seahawks’ defensive coordinator in 2013 and 2014, left this offseason to become head coach of the Falcons. The Seahawks, who fell to 2-4 with yesterday’s loss to the Panthers, miss him. The Seahawks aren’t out of it, but they’re in a lot of trouble. This looks nothing like the great Seahawks defense of the last couple years.

Michael Vick, take a seat. It appears that Vick’s days of playing quarterback in the NFL are done. He’s been mediocre at best filling in for an injured Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh this year, and yesterday the Steelers’ offense was immediately energized when Vick left the game and was replaced by third-stringer Landry Jones. Jones went 8-for-12 for 168 yards, with two touchdowns and no interceptions, and he showed that he deserves to be the Steelers’ starter until Roethlisberger’s knee heals.

Andy Dalton remains outstanding. Last week, I made the case that Dalton is an MVP candidate. Yesterday, Dalton kept it up with a brilliant game against the Bills. Dalton completed 22 of 33 passes for 243 yards, with three touchdowns, no interceptions and no sacks. The Bengals are 6-0, and Dalton is playing the best football he’s ever played.

How long can Jay Gruden stick with Kirk Cousins? Cousins was awful in Washington’s loss to the Jets yesterday, throwing two interceptions and averaging just 4.6 yards per pass. The Jets’ defense deserves some credit, but Cousins deserves a lot of blame: He makes way, way too many mistakes. Gruden tried to shield Cousins from criticism after the game, blaming the wind and the pass rush for Cousins’s bad throws. But at some point, Cousins is going to need to get better, or he’s going to need to be benched. The problem is Gruden has already flip-flopped on his quarterbacks once, declaring Robert Griffin III the starter only to change his mind and go to Cousins, and I think Gruden is afraid of looking wishy-washy if he changes back. But the reality is, if Cousins can’t get a lot better in a hurry, Washington would be better off benching him for Colt McCoy. He’s that bad — maybe even worse than Peyton Manning.

63 responses to “NFL morning after: Broncos keep winning with a shot Peyton Manning

  1. Nobody uses a 1973 reference of comparable players in 2015. You might be able to get away with Ewing or Shaq collecting paychecks their last couple seasons bouncing around the league.

  2. I do not hate Peyton Manning and I never have – neither have I ever been a fan.

    That being said – this is just sad. Watching him in the playoffs last year it was obvious that his fastball is gone and his best years are receding in the rearview mirror, and he should quit – now.

  3. This is what the Broncos were under Tebow, a team with great defense and special teams with a QB who can’t consistently complete the ball more than 5 yards down the field. Osweiler must really be awful to not even consider getting a look over a guy who is finesse passing almost everything.

  4. Hmm so packers @ broncos this Sunday and next Sunday . Sweet. not sure if you’ve seen elways 98 start of the season stats. But they are similar to PFM at this point. I guess todays nfl is all about fantasy stats. smh.

  5. It’s tough watching someone like Manning playing awful.

    Without that defense their dead…

  6. I thought all of the NFL’s officiating problems were going to go away when the replacement refs were taken off the field?

    That’s what this site kept hammering home, and led me to believe…

    What happened to the integrity of the game??

  7. It’s sad to see the end of the Brady vs. Peyton era. They had some great games against each other over the years, but it’s obvious that Peyton is pretty much finished, while Brady is playing the best football of his career. At 38 years old. Pretty damn impressive.

  8. Peyton says he’s been unlucky. LOL. Where’s your dignity. Peyton? You suck now and that’s the truth. His defense has routinely given him more chances than he deserves. Every other QB that throws An INT in the 4th quarter and OT would lose. I guess they will carry the turnover machine/ noodle arm the entire season.

  9. Manning seems over the hill, but I’m not yet convinced that the rest of the team are quite as superb as advertised: their 6 wins are against teams with a combined 10-24 (10-18 if you subtract their losses to the Broncos). 3 of those teams are now 1-5. Only one of those games was against a team above .500 – a 3 point home win over the 3-2 Vikes. This doesn’t have Championship written on it, not at the moment anyway.

  10. It’s not a knock on Manning to acknowledge these truths about his throwing capability at this point in his great career. It’s as plain as day that even when he throws the ball as hard as he can, it comes out like a major league changeup.

    I don’t know if Osweiler can improve the team offensively, but the Broncos have to know that they won’t win in the playoffs with Manning in there, so why not make the change now?

  11. The Denver Broncos can get to the AFC championship game…in Foxboro. They should have won Super Bowl XLVIII, and they should have won Super Bowl XLVII but they lost to the 2012 Ravens (10-6). Manning has only one or two years left, and after that, he will have to retire. Manning will be missed in the N.F.L. He brought excitement and clarity to the game, but failed to win a second ring. I think his best chance to win a second ring was in 2009 as well. The Colts at that time should have went 16-0 and should have won it all.

  12. So how many stories are going to be written about poor officiating. The truth is it is now and overly complicated rule book for things as commonplace as what is an cathc and we now have tons of angles to point out their mistakes. This leaves an officiateing crew completely “gun shy” and frozen when trying to make calls. The league doesnt even know how to make a call hours after a play happens. It’s not the refs its the system they have to now work under

  13. The yards per pass stat on Cousins is a reflection on how terrible the OL is. Cousins took a sack and had 5 QB hits (Fitzpatrick by the way took none). How many hurries? It looks like Gruden is protecting Griffin at the expense of Cousins. Now the Jaguars need to protect Bortles or he’s going to end up like Griffin.

  14. The league is so broken it has become the NBA. The national passing league makes passing boring now. It’s nothing new. It’s like home runs during the steroid era. Might as well not watch until there’s 2 minutes left in the game just like the nba. Also, just like the nba, it’s takes 45 minutes to play those 2 mins. Thanks rog and fantasy geeks.

  15. The Jets team played well but Cousins helped them, as did the Redskin’s DC. This whole only rush 4 guys thing is played out. Ryan Fitz is a journeyman that looked great yesterday because he saw no pressure.

    Cousins continues to make the same mistakes, and then he has the interceptions. Gruden needs to move from him quick, or he could be Philbin part Duex in a week.

  16. I am a huge Peyton Manning fan. I hope this slow start is him just “warming up” and he can turn his horrible start around. As for MVP candidates they are Dalton, Brady, and Rogers. And though six games, the MVP is Andy Dalton.

  17. Khalil and Aldon want to invite him over to make a sandwhich. Leftover turkey, they’ll bring the gravey.

  18. Fetushead will end up costing that Denver squad in the playoffs. He’ll string together some decent games and they’ll stick with him when he is clearly done. Either QB playing won’t get them past NE this year.

  19. When a light bulb burns out, there may be a short flicker but it is boom, pop and gone. There is no question that we are witnessing the final decline of Peyton Manning and it is sad to see. In hindsight, 2014 should have been his last but I guess his love for the game is too great to say goodbye.

    6-0 is a fab record due to a fab defense. With Peyton and this offense, Denver is a one and done playoff team. Them is the facts.

    Avid Bronco Fan

  20. Seriously downvoters, wake up:

    Points Per Game Leaders
    1 NY Jets 1121 280.3 742 185.5 379 94.8 55 13.8
    2 Denver 1390 278.0 964 192.8 426 85.2 79 15.8

    30 Ryan Fitzpatrick NYJ QB 107 171 62.6 34.2 1,177 6.9 235.4 9 7 55 32.2 58 14 3 2 83.4

    42 Peyton Manning DEN QB 146 237 61.6 39.5 1,524 6.4 254.0 7 10 77 32.5 75T 14 5 12 72.5

    Jets have a better D and a better QB.

  21. Big Ben was last seen hanging a sweet, sweet, 9 points on the Rams in the first 40 minutes until he was injured. There’s NO WAY Landry Jones can be that type of gunslinger.

  22. Good comment by announcers in yesterday’s Denver/Cleveland game that Manning is a drop back rhythm passer and Kubiak is trying to make him into a play action passer. When Manning ditched the play action for straight drop back rhythm passing late in the game he looked pretty good and completed about 7 or 8 in a row including a 75 yard TD pass. Making Manning into a play action type passer with no rhythm and not much of a running game just does not work for Manning no matter how old he is. Solution is to either get a running game or ditch the play action and go to a straight drop back rhythm passing game like Denver did the last couple of years.

  23. Broncos should have lost to the Ravens, Chiefs, Vikings, & Browns, but they didn’t. Credit to the Broncos D for their outstanding play.

  24. emoney826 says:
    Oct 19, 2015 10:07 AM

    It will be a good game between Green Bay and Denver.

    If you’re a Packers fan.

  25. Dan Quinn was the “heart of the Seahawks”.
    Sometimes coaches ARE more valuable then the players. It looks like the Falcons are willing to “crawl through glass” for him, I know that.

  26. “As for MVP candidates they are Dalton, Brady, and Rogers. And though six games, the MVP is Andy Dalton.”

    Brady has 62 less passing yards, 1 less INTs, the same amount of TDs, a QB rating 2.3 points higher, and is completing 2.7% more passes.

    Additionally, his team (the Patriots; 183 points) has scored 1 more point than Dalton’s (the Bengals; 182 points).

    …. all in ONE LESS GAME.

    So why is Dalton the MVP again? Is it because of something grounded in objectivity, or is it just because the guy he’s up against is Brady and you don’t like him?

  27. I still say that after Manning has been retired for 2-3 years, he’s finally going to admit that his neck problem became way worse than he let on, and it made him lose most of his arm strength and throwing ability in the last 2 seasons.

  28. Come on Ive watched some Broncos game and Manning is not that bad. Hes just become a primarily dink and dunk guy, and his intermediate and deep balls arent consistent. He still busts out deeper passes and sometimes they work. Brady has never consistently thrown anything but dink and dunk and people still call him a great.

    A lot of picks have been crazy tip passes. A few weeks ago people were saying how Kubiak needs to step back and let Peyton do his thing. SMH!

  29. Hey dummies… Broncos have not faced a winning team yet and are struggling to get by very bad teams. They are like last years Chiefs. People really thought they were good yet it was fools gold…
    Chiefs last year faced 80% backup QBs in their little winning streak and then they crumbled when they played AVERAGE teams like The Raiders….This is the case for The Broncos. They have not played anybody really good and they been EXTREMELY lucky.. This Broncos team did not score 1 touchdown off The Raiders 2 weeks ago.. Not one!
    The Broncos beat The Browns…BIG DEAL! In fact Josh McCown beat the Browns not the Broncos. You will see now that the schedule gets harder for Denver who they really are. They are going to get DESTROYED by the Packers and then it keeps getting worst… This team is an average team. Broncos will be 9-7 or 8-8 at the end of the year. AFC West will be won by either Chargers or Raiders. Denver won’t beat Chargers and they won;t beat The Raiders again… Just wait and see

  30. “Hes just become a primarily dink and dunk guy, and his intermediate and deep balls arent consistent. He still busts out deeper passes and sometimes they work. Brady has never consistently thrown anything but dink and dunk and people still call him a great.”

    So Peyton “becomes a dink and dunk guy” and suddenly leads the league in INTs and looks awful. Comparatively, according to you, Brady HAS BEEN a dink and dunk guy, and yet has produced well enough to be regarded as an all time great.

    Peyton can’t do it, yet it’s the reason Brady is overrated. The cognitive dissonance on display here is truly staggering.

    Furthermore, this notion that Brady has “only ever been” ANYTHING is so egregiously wrong it’s not even funny. Brady has got to be on his (something like) 5th different iteration of this offensive system, and he’s produced in all of them. Asserting something like that only serves to expose your lack of football knowledge and/or that you’ve only recently started following the sport.

  31. On the bad officiating in Lions/Bears, you left out the bogus roughing the passer penalty that gave the Lions new life at the end of the 4th quarter. Instead of 4th and forever, they got a first and goal and ultimately scored on the next play. Replay showed he was being blocked to the ground and tried to avoid Stafford. Horrible, game-changing call.

  32. It would be refreshing for Manning to go to his coaches/Elway & tell them he thinks the team has a better chance to win with Osweiler at QB. There is no shame in admitting as much. Manning has nothing to be ashamed about of his HOF career.

    Instead we’ll see the Broncos go down due to his play. Manning admitted he can’t feel the ball on his fingertips & that’s why we’re seeing so many ducks. Maybe the Broncos make a change later in the season, maybe they don’t. Either way they will lose important games by holding onto the past.

  33. Regarding the Bears-Lions game…horrible officiating was an understatement. It was like Grandpa Simpson and his nursing home cronies were calling the game. Not only bad calls, bizarre ones. One penalty was thrown a good 40 seconds AFTER the play as over. The refs had to huddle up at least 6 times in order to make a call.

  34. I think losing Julius Thomas hurt the Broncos offense he was a reliable target when the Broncos were driving down the field and now he’s gone. That being said Manning’s arm is most definitely shot and unless he pulls a great performance out from his rear end the Broncos will not make it past the first round. I know defense wins titles, but at the same time the offense has to at least be producing something and right now they aren’t which is why they will have a hard time beating the Packers or Patriots.

  35. The Packers/Broncos game is a pretty tough call. If the Packers offense was playing like it was still 2014, to me they’d easily be the favorite, but a lot their key skill players are playing knicked up or have missed significant stretches of games. Defenses are double teaming Cobb and making the rest of the Packers young receiving corps (outside of Jones) try and beat them.

    The Packers defense, while somewhat improved from a year ago, still has a tendency to play the Jekyll and Hyde act and make mediocre QBs like Smith look like upper echelon QBs. Rivers is easily the best QB they played to date and he had a career day against them even though they only scored 20 points. Bend but don’t break is great winning regular season games against average opponents, but if the pass rush isn’t getting home and they aren’t getting stops via turnovers, it can expose some glaring weaknesses like yesterday in Capers scheme, who has never been the best DC at making adjustments.

    I’d say, as long as the Packers do a decent job of protecting the football like Rodgers has traditionally done and they get some of their hurt players back healthy, they’ve got a good shot at beating Denver even on the road.

  36. I remember a while back Tom Brady was asked when he would retire and he said when he sucked, this was mentioned to Peyton while asking him the same question, Peyton’s answer was that he’d retire BEFORE he sucked. I thought Peyton was referring to himself, I guess he meant Tom instead.

  37. Right. Two 100 yard receivers, a long pass play for the win, and an undefeated team. Only the media can make that terrible. He isn’t the exceptional player he was but he can still get the job done.

  38. “Right. Two 100 yard receivers, a long pass play for the win, and an undefeated team. Only the media can make that terrible. He isn’t the exceptional player he was but he can still get the job done.”

    Sure, he’ll keep “getting it done” as long as his defense scores him a TD a game…

  39. Jay Gruden is treating RG3 like a high school coach who is holing a grudge against his parents because he didn’t get invited to the team BBQ after that game. Justifying his bad play just stirs up more issues.

  40. I’d like the “bench Manning” crowd to tell us how the dynamics in the locker room will benefit the team after Kubiak benches him.

    As fans we can say this or that but we don’t deal in the reality of the situation. As Ronnie Hillman made it clear, the team will rally around Manning. Give him a better O-line & a consistent running game, receivers who don’t drop catchable passes & he probably won’t look so bad.

  41. Criticizing Manning for being over thr hill when he has no effective running game and being forced to run plays that does not always fit the skillset he still has is silly and dumb.

    For example, the Cards have a great offense and PFT just rated him the top QB as of today’s stats. But the Cards always get beat when an opposing team dominates the Cards offensive line just as the Steeler did and the Rams did a few weeks ago. When the opposing Defensive Line whups up on and dominates the Cards offensive line (especially on their highly paid left tackle), Carson Palmer may throw for lots of yards, but also becomes mistake prone and the offensive play calling by Bruce Arians becomes one dimensional since the Cards can’t run because the offensive line cannot run block.

    NFL football is the ultimate team game. Put Manning on a team that can run for effect and that will allow Manning to execute plays that suit his existing skillset with decnt receivers and he will not look “shot” even to arrogant sportswriters trying to get an easy rise and reaction out of fans.

  42. Denver’s first reality check will probably be the SNF game in two weeks against the Packers. The Broncos will have a tough time hanging on when they start facing teams with actual QBs.

  43. Watch out everyone, including my Jets. This could be the year we see Boomer 2.0 aka Andy Dalton and his Bengals go to a SuperBowl (and win). This is a seriously great team.

    Also, this:

    Most overrated QB in the history of the NFL, Peyton Manning.


    Montana, Young, Unitas, K. Warner, Brady, Marino, Elway, and just about every other great QB you can think of.

  44. Kubiak is reason he looks bad! I’m not a Broncos fan but I am a Manning fan and even after he beat my Vikings! Let Manning play the way he is comfortable and he will play better. Don’t try to force him into your system or you will get what we see now. A struggling offense with a bad running game. When Payton was at his best was when he was calling the plays in the shotgun and changing the plays at will when he saw what the defense was doing! He knows more about good football than backup QB Kubiak knows about anything. Elway brought him there because of what he can do and his vast knowledge of the game. Let him do it and stand back!

  45. nyjetsfan08 says:
    Oct 19, 2015 2:30 PM

    Most overrated QB in the history of the NFL, Peyton Manning.


    Montana, Young, Unitas, K. Warner, Brady, Marino, Elway, and just about every other great QB you can think of.
    You forgot Favre, who you a Jets fan says Manning is an over-rated QB who’s about to break his record for passing yards!

  46. It was reported Payton Manning has a loss of feeling in his throwing hand which is why he throws so many ducks and is inconsistent.

    This is a result of his neck surgery where he had two vertebrae fused together. The man is trying but it is not something he can control. I know how this is as I had a triple fusion in my neck 6 years ago, the result of accident getting hit flush on top of my head with a 50 lb piece of equipment plus my age. My neck is a lot worse than before the surgery. I found it hard to believe he had no lasting effects. He will retire at the end of this season.

    Take care of your health. Once something serious happens it alters your life forever.

  47. “Denver’s defense is outstanding — easily the best in the NFL”

    really, the best? that great Denver defense has so far played all the dregs of the nfl that have a combined record of 10 measily wins and 24 losses. the best team they beat was the 3-2 Vikings.(woo hoo).let see what that number one defense does against the Packers offense in two weeks or the Patriots down the road. Denver is very fortunate the schedule makers gave them a bunch of lollipops for the first six weeks,now comes the real challenge,to show the nfl world they are for real.

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