Peyton Manning: Better Than Ever?

QB Peyton Manning (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta)

We all know Peyton Manning has been on a roll thus far this season, but is this his best start ever? His best five game stretch ever? Brad Keller takes a look inside the numbers.

Up to this point in the season, Peyton Manning has, by all accounts, been unstoppable.  He is currently leading the league in completions, yards, yards per attempt, touchdown passes, quarterback rating, and sack percentage, which is made all the more impressive given the fact that Drew Brees started out the season by throwing six touchdown passes in Week 1 against the Lions.

This is not the first time that Manning has gotten off to a hot start by any means, but where do his first five games rate from an historical standpoint?

His best five five-game starts to a season, in order:

2004: 66.2 completion percentage, 1,321 yards passing, 14 touchdown passes, three interceptions, average of 8.4 yards per attempt, and a 114.1 quarterback rating.

2009: 73.5 completion percentage, 1,645 yards passing, 12 touchdown passes, four interceptions, average of 9.1 yards per attempt, and a 114.1 quarterback rating.

2007: 69.7 completion percentage, 1,319 yards passing, ten touchdown passes, two interceptions, average of 8.0 yards per attempt, and a 108.6 quarterback rating.

2003: 68.6 completion percentage, 1,300 yards passing, 11 touchdown passes, four interceptions, average of 7.7 yards per attempt, and a 103.1 quarterback rating.

2006: 62.0 completion percentage, 1,278 yards passing, eight touchdown passes, two interceptions, average of 7.5 yards per attempt, and a 95.6 quarterback rating.

Now, the argument could be made back and forth between the 2009 start and the 2004 start.  His 2009 start is his best start in terms of completion percentage, yards per attempt, and total yards, but he also has needed 181 attempts thus far this season versus 157 in 2004, throwing two fewer touchdown passes.

What cannot be argued is that the 2004 season turned out to be very prosperous for Manning and that the four full seasons in question turned out to be good ones for Manning and the Colts — two MVP awards, a Super Bowl trophy, three 12-win seasons, and one 13 win season — which bodes well for Indianapolis, Manning, and their 5-0 start.

But, as far as the best five game streaks of Manning's career are concerned, his start to this point comes up a little short.  Here are the top five overall:

2004, Games 7-11: 68.0 completion percentage, 1,507 yards passing, 24 touchdown passes, four interceptions, average of 9.7 yards per attempt, and a 127.9 quarterback rating.

2007, Games 11-15: 69.1 completion percentage, 1,396 yards passing, 15 touchdown passes, three interceptions, average of 9.2 yards per attempt, and a 122.6 quarterback rating.

2005, Games 8-12: 68.8 completion percentage, 1,415 yards passing, 14 touchdown passes, three interceptions, average of 9.2 yards per attempt, and a 119.9 quarterback rating.

2009, Games 1-5: 73.5 completion percentage, 1,645 yards passing, 12 touchdown passes, four interceptions, average of 9.1 yards per attempt, and a 114.1 quarterback rating.

2004, Games 1-5: 66.2 completion percentage, 1,321 yards passing, 14 touchdown passes, three interceptions, average of 8.4 yards per attempt, and a 114.1 quarterback rating.

Obviously, that five-game stretch in 2004 is going to be hard to top, but the good news is that the stats show that Manning starts strong, but he finishes stronger.  The next three stretches on this list fall between the ninth and 16th games of their respective seasons, with the eighth-best stretch being games 12-16 of 2006. 

While this isn't his hottest five-game stretch ever, he does get to face two teams out of these five again — Jacksonville and Tennessee are the 30th- and 31st-rated pass defenses, respectively — and the 24th-, 25th-, and 26th-rated pass defenses in St. Louis, San Francisco, and Baltimore, respectively.  That's five opponents that are in the bottom quarter of the NFL in terms of yards per game given up through the air in the next 11 games, but those games are not consecutive.

In other words, he may not top where he currently stands on the top five list with another torrid five game stretch again this season, but he's certainly off to a great start, which has generally equaled excellent finishes for Manning and the Colts.


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