Certainly one of the biggest storylines heading into the 2012 NFL season is the return of future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning to the playing field.
Of course, Manning missed all of last season, the first time in his NFL career he didn’t start a game. Prior to missing the 2011 opener against Houston, Manning, the top pick in the 1998 draft, had started 208 consecutive regular-season games and 227 straight games if you include playoffs. He still had a way to go to catch Brett Favre’s 297-game mark for a quarterback, which is now looking more and more unreachable. The active leader is Peyton’s younger brother Eli with 119 straight regular-season starts. What did Archie and Olivia Manning feed those boys?
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With Peyton’s suddenly questionable injury status, huge contract and the fact the Colts stunk enough last year to draft Stanford QB Andrew Luck No. 1 overall, Indianapolis released Manning this offseason and he landed in Denver. It’s perfect symmetry, really. The Broncos are now run by Hall of Famer John Elway. Luck is easily the best quarterback to come from Stanford since Elway and the best collegiate prospect since Manning. So the circle is closed in a way.
There are several Peyton Manning props to bet on at various books right now. One is at BetOnline with an “over/under” of 8.5 games that Manning plays before he is sidelined with an injury. The over is a big -172 favorite, with the under at +142. I don’t know how you can’t take over here. Manning is smart enough and has a quick enough release to get rid of the ball before taking a big hit. In his final three seasons on the field, he was sacked just 40 times, or less than once per game. By comparison, Chicago’s Jay Cutler was sacked a whopping 52 times in 2010 alone.
Sportsbook.ag has numerous player matchup props currently active with a few involving Manning.
*-Peyton +85.5 yards passing in 2012 season vs. Eli; Peyton and Eli even for most touchdown passes (all options at -115): Baby brother Eli threw for by far a career-high 4,933 yards and 29 touchdowns (second-most) last season in passing Peyton for Super Bowl rings. That yardage total is 233 yards more than Peyton’s career high in 2010. Peyton has surpassed Eli’s career high of 31 touchdowns (set in 2010) four times, including his final two seasons on the field in Indy. He also threw for exactly 31 scores twice. I would definitely take Eli on the yardage because Peyton’s arm strength just isn’t what it was and the Denver passing game will be a lot of dink-and-dunk, at least initially. Meanwhile, Eli can bomb away to Hakeem Nicks and Victor Ortiz, so I would also go with him on the touchdown throws.
*-Peyton +5.5 touchdown passes in 2012 vs. Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers (both -115) and Manning +6.5 touchdowns (-130) vs. the Saints’ Drew Brees (even): … I think Rodgers and Brees both put up at least 40 TDs again because they are in such pass-heavy offenses. Especially Rodgers because the Packers just don’t have a true No. 1 back. He threw for 45 last year despite missing the regular-season finale (in which Matt Flynn threw six TD passes vs. Detroit). Brees has thrown at least 33 touchdown passes the past four years, topped by 46 in 2011 on the way to being named NFL Offensive Player of the Year. So if both those guys hit only 40, that means Manning has to be in the ballpark of 34. Don’t see it.
*At Bovada back in the spring when Manning signed with Denver, he was given an over/under of 4,000 passing yards, 28.5 touchdown passes and 16.5 interceptions (all at -115): This prop hasn’t been reposted yet but I don’t see why it would change when it is. Getting to 4,000 yards in a 16-game season just isn’t a big deal anymore as 10 players did it last year. I’d go over there. Only seven players went over 28 touchdowns. Think I would go under there, barely. And I simply think Manning is too accurate to throw that many picks so under.
*-Also at Bovada, Manning is the 10/1 co-fifth favorite to throw for the most passing yards and co-10/1 fourth-favorite to win MVP. Forget about Manning leading the NFL in yards, that’s simply not going to happen. Remember, too, he’s not playing outside instead of in the cozy dome in Indy. The MVP might be worth a roll of the dice. If the Broncos somehow go 11-5, win the division and Manning plays every game at a high level, he will be the NFL’s media darling and could win his fifth MVP even with numbers that might not stack up to Rodgers, Brees or Tom Brady.