Last year the Denver Broncos started the Peyton Manning Era by winning eleven consecutive games to end the 2012 regular season before losing in the AFC Divisional Playoffs to the Baltimore Ravens in double overtime. On Thursday night the Broncos earned revenge over the Super Bowl champs, shaking off some struggles out of the gate to blow out the Ravens 49-27 in a record setting night for Peyton Manning.
At 37-years-old, Manning became the first player to throw for seven touchdowns in one game since Minnesota Vikings quarterback Joe Kapp did it against the Colts in 1969. To put Manning’s night in perspective, he threw more than half the total touchdowns (13) that Mark Sanchez threw last season in one game. Manning’s seven touchdowns were one shy of the Kansas City Chiefs ENTIRE 2012 passing touchdown total. It was by all accounts a magical performance from one of the game’s best players of all time on the biggest stage of the NFL regular season against the defending Super Bowl champs.
But I am here to tell you that it doesn’t mean squat.
The Denver Broncos aren’t going to be the favorites to win the Super Bowl, and their star player is one of the main reasons.
Yes the Broncos receivers looked like they were unstoppable cutting through the Ravens defense that looked lost in the middle of the field without Ray Lewis calling the shots at middle linebacker, but the hisory of the NFL is playing against the Denver Broncos this season.
Peyton Manning is 37, and while he is more recovered from his neck surgery that led the Indianapolis Colts I am not going to buy the “Peyton’s arm strength is back” hype. I also have the numbers to prove it.
Since John Elway won the Super Bowl at the ripe old age of 37 and 38 the oldest quarterback to win the Super Bowl was the mediocre Brad Johnson at the age of 34 with Tampa Bay. After that no quarterback younger than 31 has one the Lombardi Trophy with the veteran Kurt Warner coming the closest when the Cardinals lost to the Steelers.
1999– Kurt Warner, Rams, 28
2000 — Trent Dilfer, Ravens, 28
2001 — Tom Brady, Patriots, 24
2002 — Brad Johnson, Bucs, 34
2003 — Tom Brady, Patriots, 26
2004 — Tom Brady, Patriots, 27
2005 — Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers, 23
2006 — Peyton Manning, Colts, 30
2007 — Eli Manning, Giants, 27
2008 — Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers, 26
2009 — Drew Brees, Saints, 31
2010 — Aaron Rodgers, Packers, 27
2011 — Eli Manning, Giants, 31
2012 — Joe Flacco, Ravens, 28
That is an average age of 27.8, nearly ten years younger than Peyton in 2013. The writing is on the wall that young quarterbacks and young teams are the type that leads to Super Bowl success, something that is already a hurdle for Manning, who has to handle cold weather as the Broncos season drags on something that is sure to put a strain on his health at the same time as the hits he must take each week take a toll on his body. The Broncos season goes as far as Peyton’s arm goes, something that has always made him a target and something that has Denver’s Super Bowl hopes hinging on a Manning beating the human body until February.
The league is also drastically different than when Elway and Brad Johnson won their Super Bowls. In a league with parity at an all time high there are more and more teams that are Super Bowl contenders, something that makes the NFL season all about who finishes the hottest come playoff time. Something that makes Manning’s health a concern.
A weak final schedule and a weak AFC West will give the Broncos another likely shot at tops in the AFC West and a first round bye week. Whether or not the Broncos are able to reprise the magical Super Bowl seasons that ended the career of John Elway will hinge upon Peyton Manning defying the numbers, just don’t call them the Super Bowl favorites. A 37 year old quarterback winning the Lombardi Trophy would be anything but the expected.