Pro Football Focus has a brief analysis about Peyton Manning and what their analysts believed was a decline in his play prior to the Week 15 game against San Diego when he injured his thigh.
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.
To be fair, the Rams’ game was one in which Emmanuel Sanders exited the game in the third quarter with concussion symptoms, and with Julius Thomas sidelined.
Still, it’s worth considering PFF’s point that Peyton’s skills are declining. But as PFF notes, that doesn’t mean Peyton can’t contribute any longer. Keep in mind that, when elite QBs decline, they are still good QBs who can thrive with a team built well around him and a good scheme.
Just remember how John Elway excelled even when he was past his prime, because he was surrounded by top talent such as Terrell Davis, Shannon Sharpe, Rod Smith and an offensive line that played well as a unit, plus head coach Mike Shanahan built a scheme that helped Elway. We will find out how well Gary Kubiak can tailor his scheme to benefit Peyton.
In Peyton’s case, it will also help to have what might be one of the better defenses in the NFL, with players who could do very well under Wade Phillips. A strong defense can give an offense good field position and take pressure off the offense to have to score on every drive.