While Peyton Manning still has a comfortable lead in the MVP race, his performance on Thursday night has definitely made things more interesting. Manning threw for 289 yards with two touchdowns, one interception, and was successful on just two of nine third-down conversions leading to a 27-20 loss. All of this was at home against the San Diego Chargers, who own the 28th-ranked pass defense in the NFL.
The Denver Broncos will still likely win the AFC West, but home-field advantage throughout the playoffs is no longer in their control after the loss. If the New England Patriots take care of business the No. 1 seed in the AFC will be theirs, which would have been a big selling point for Manning’s MVP candidacy.
Drew Brees‘ numbers aren’t that far behind Manning’s, throwing for 315.9 yards per game with 33 touchdowns and eight interceptions compared to 343.6 yards per game with 47 touchdowns and 10 interceptions for Manning. And now that both of them are on track to lead their respective teams to No. 2 seeds, Brees has gained a little ground. If he can catch up a little statistically over his last three games, Brees could very well take home MVP honors.
Another aspect that should be factored into the discussion is their supporting casts. Brees has some nice weapons, but Manning’s are ridiculous with an offensive line that is much stronger. Among quarterbacks who have started all of their games, nobody has been sacked fewer times per attempt than Manning. Add receiving weapons like Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Wes Welker, and Julius Thomas to the mix and that is a recipe for success.
In the two games in which the Broncos were missing just one of those weapons, Denver lost and Manning had his worst performances. The first came against New England minus Julius Thomas. Manning completed just 50 percent of his passes for 150 yards with two scores and one pick. The other game was Thursday night’s loss against the Chargers without Welker.
It’s fair to question if Manning is dependent on his weapons when he has failed to get the job done in the two games in which he is missing just one of them. Manning is still leading the MVP race, but after another costly off-game he is definitely not running away with it.