We've had some heated debates on Mile High Report over the past few weeks as different members of Broncos Country have a different opinion on a simple question:
Is Peyton Manning struggling?
Some think he's getting old. Some wonder aloud if he's hurt. Others (like Manning himself) insist he's fine.
Let's break it down.
First off, just look at his fantasy numbers - his passing yards and touchdowns over the past two weeks - 406 yards and one touchdown. Through two games. That'd be a just-okay showing from Star Wars Manning in one game.
Denver is trying to give Manning more options. But his 28 combined completions in Weeks 14 and 15 mark Manning's lowest total in consecutive games he has started and finished since Weeks 12 (15) and 13 (13) in 2005. His recent three-game total of 45 completions is the lowest of his career (in games he started and finished); Manning's previous low was 50 in 1998 -- his rookie season.
Finally, just read the headlines. Both Yahoo! and the Washington Post unknowingly trolled each other last week with the same headline: Is something wrong with Peyton Manning? If enough people are asking, maybe there is.
Enter FO's Scott Kacsmar, a friend of Mile High Report's on Twitter. He regularly engages us with interesting facts about the Broncos and strikes me as knowledgeable, good people.
I noticed a tweet from Mr. Kacsmar late Tuesday that linked to this comment, his own, on FO's latest DVOA article. While it was replying to a specific commenter on the FO site, it might as well have been replying to a fair number of people in Broncos Country, worrying about the "struggles" of Peyton Manning.
I loved this comment and wanted to highlight it. Kacsmar writes -
It is making a mountain out of a mole hill. Frankly, it's one of the most ridiculous things I've read all year.
Denver lost to the Rams and took a long hard look at what goes wrong when they lose. The answers were obvious: offensive line gets pushed around, running game is nonexistent and it becomes a one-man show.
They moved some of the pieces on the OL and C.J. Anderson has been their best runner. Virgil Green saw the field more for blocking. They committed to the run so Manning wasn't stuck throwing 50+ times again.
Before the change: 2.49 points per drive
After the change: 2.92 points per drive
Chargers aren't a strong defense, but those other three games were against MIA/KC/BUF. Pretty talented defenses. Denver's played one of the toughest schedules in the league.
Emmanuel Sanders had a concussion vs. Rams and took another huge shot vs. Buffalo. Demaryius Thomas injured his ankle in a practice and was limping before Buffalo game. Julius Thomas, their best red-zone receiver, missed most of these recent games. Jacob Tamme has been playing hurt. Manning had the flu and a thigh injury this past week. That all certainly contributes to how much you want to feature your passing game, as did the weather/lead in KC and the defensive matchup against Buffalo.
With an increase in running, Manning has worked on the deep passing game the last month and has had some success.
First 10 games: average pass attempt traveled 8.2 yards with 5.1 YAC
Last 4 games: average pass attempt traveled 9.6 yards with 4.3 YAC
So the last month hasn't been as good as the first seven games, but so what? He's still completing 67% of his passes with 7 TD, 2 INT and 7.72 YPA. Denver's offense handled SD and BUF much better than NE and GB did this month.
I don't know if this offense will work against NE/SEA, but it's working against everyone else. There are some obvious circumstances that have limited how much they've thrown the last few weeks that I just don't think people are even bothering to address.
What's your take?
Look, no one outside of the Broncos locker room (or maybe even just Denver's training staff) knows if Manning is hurt/too old/struggling. This could be all part of Denver's overall gameplan as they head into the playoffs. They have won four in a row, after all. Or he could be hurt/too old/struggling.
So how worried are you? Let us know your take in the poll and in the comments, and remember to be respectful of everyone's opinion! Go Broncos!