Peyton Manning has had three seasons wrapped up into one this year.
For seven weeks he was on an MVP pace. Then the wheels fell off for a month. Finally, he's been on a nice roll for the final three games.
Let's see where his 2010 numbers stack up against his previous seasons:
The two things that stand out this season for Manning are his attempts (through the roof), and his yards per attempt. At first the YPA really bothered me. YPA is the most important stat in football when it comes to the passing game. However, when you realize that the Colts lead the NFL with 40 dropped passes, it begins to come into focus. Granted the Colts throw the ball more than any other team, so you'd expect by volume to have more drops. Reggie Wayne is second in the NFL with 11 drops and Garcon is 6th with 8. Of course Wayne has seen 159 passes (2nd in the NFL) this season, so you'd expect some drops. Some of the drop in Manning's YPA is simply a function of a bad year by his receiving crew.
It helps to evaluate Manning's year in the context of the Indy offense. The Colts are averaging 27.5 points a game, 3rd in the NFL. Last season, they averaged 28.1 ppg through the first 14 weeks. In 2008, it was 23.2 and in 2007 it was 28.1. In fact, despite all the injuries, the 2010 Indy offense is averaging more points a game than the 2008 or 2006 Colts. Indy has turned the ball over 24 times. In 2009, they turned the ball over 24 times, although Curtis Painter had 3 of them.
Also of note is that Manning's season is remarkably similar to Drew Brees's season this year:
Peyton Manning and Drew Brees have essentially been the same quarterback in 2010. It's funny how close the numbers are.
The real struggle point for the 2010 Colts has been on defense. The 2010 Colts have struggled to force turnovers, with just 20 on the year after forcing 26 last season. They've recovered 10 fumbles (just like in 2009), but have only 10 picks for the season verses 16 last year. By points, Indy is allowing 24.5 ppg. Granted, the Colts have allowed 6 returns for scores (4 INT, 1 punt, 1 KO). Allowing for that knocks the total down by a field goal, but still puts the Colts at 21.7 ppg. In 2009, the Colts defense allowed 17.7 points a game through 14 weeks. That's four points less a game. How big a deal is four points a game?
Indy has four losses by three or fewer points this season.
Flip a couple of those games, and the Colts are playing for a bye this week instead of for their lives.