An odd claim was made in Kuharsky's mailbag yesterday by Ralph from San Diego,
"Do you see any teams in the AFC South making a play for ILB Stephen Cooper from the Chargers? Given the fact that Peyton Manning owns that division, and [Cooper] seems to own Peyton in the battle of wits game, I see him being a major player for the South. Your thoughts?"
The Colts haven't had the most success against the Chargers in recent years, but Cooper owning Manning is a pretty extreme claim. Cooper is an 8 year vet, but didn't become a regular starter until 4 years ago. In those four years he started all 5 of the Colts-Chargers matchups. Cooper's statistics in those matchups aren't particularly impressive. Lots of tackles but only 1 INT, 1 FF, 4 passes defensed with no sacks in 5 games.
A ILB is a lot more than just their numbers though and the question referred specifically to a battle of wits. Was Peyton held in check by the Chargers defense in the 5 games with Cooper in the starting lineup?
Manning in last 5 games against SD: 155 for 238 (65.1% comp), 1580 yards, 10.2 y/c, 6.6 y/a, 10 TDs, 13 INTs
The INTs are the number that really jumps out, but the 238 attempts should as well, that's an average of 47.6 attempts per game. Piles of attempts with efficiency numbers remaining strong, but a lot of picks points not to Peyton being shut down, but being overtaxed. The Chargers averaged 28 points per game in those meetings and never scored less than 20.
Addtionally a sample of just 5 games is far from ideal, almost everyone knows better than to crown or write off teams in week 6. In a sample of just 5 games outliers can make for a big difference. Pairing Peyton's worst two games gives you 4 TDs to 10 INTs leaving 7 TDs to 2 INTs in the remaining 3 games.
There doesn't appear to be any reason to attribute Peyton's worse than usual performance in the past 5 matchups with the Chargers to Cooper specifically rather than the Chargers simply being one of the strongest teams in the league, offensively and defensively the past 4 years or simply a fluke of the small sample.