What should we expect from Peyton in 2015?
The prevailing opinion on Peyton Manning coming out of the 2014 season is that Manning suffered a late-season injury that depleted his leg strength and subsequently his ability to throw with any power, resulting in one of the worst playoff performances of his career against the Indianapolis Colts. Yes, Manning did get injured in the Denver Broncos’ Week 15 game against the San Diego Chargers, but was that really the beginning of his decline?
According to our grades, it started well before Week 15. After a solid start to the season, Manning entered his Week 9 contest against the New England Patriots with a league-high passer rating of 119.1, though he “only” ranked sixth in our PFF passing grades. He was already forcing too many passes into coverage, but was getting away with them (keeping his stats clean) while receiving quite a bit of help from his playmakers. Week 9 marked the beginning of a three-week stretch of negative grades for Manning, including one of his worst performances in years against the St. Louis Rams in Week 11.
The second half of the season was littered with inconsistency as he posted three negative grades over his final five regular-season games, and his passer rating started to properly reflect his play to finish at 101.6.
Now, Manning still performed as one of the better quarterbacks in the league, but make no mistake: His decline started well before any late-season injury, and PFF grades were reflecting this even before the raw stats started to catch up.
All that said, Manning is still just one year removed from a remarkable 2013 season. We’re not expecting a total flop in 2015, particularly with new head coach Gary Kubiak implementing his fun-first, play-action heavy scheme, as Manning should continue to be one of the league’s best quarterbacks even if he doesn’t reach his 2013 heights.