Peyton Manning wasn't quite sure what to expect this season, and openly admitted that he might never come close to being the same player in Denver that he was in Indianapolis before missing last season with neck problems that required four surgical procedures.
Any more questions?
Eleven games into one of the most remarkable comebacks we've ever seen in the NFL, the 36-year-old Manning is enjoying one of his best seasons and is a good bet to win an unprecedented fifth Most Valuable Player award. And who knows? He might wind up winning Comeback Player of the Year honors as well.
Manning's numbers are nearly as good as at any other point in his career. If he maintains his current rating of 104.1, it will be the second highest rating of his career, bettered only by his astronomical rating of 121.1 in 2004. He has the Broncos at 8-3, has won six straight, and runs an offense that has averaged 30.5 points per game during that streak. Last week, Manning recorded his 149th career win, surpassing Broncos quarterback John Elway, the team's director of football operations who was instrumental in bringing Manning to Denver.
The Broncos are now poised to clinch the AFC West title as soon as Sunday, and Manning could very well get to the Super Bowl for the third time in his career.
Manning will certainly have some competition in the MVP race; quarterbacks Tom Brady of the Patriots, Aaron Rodgers of the Packers, Matt Ryan of the Falcons, Jay Cutler of the Bears and possibly Eli Manning of the Giants (but only if he stays hot the rest of the season) are contenders, as well as Texans defensive end J.J. Watt. But if Manning keeps playing like this, it's a good bet he'll win the most coveted regular season award once more.
Well earned. The guy is everything that's good about sports.
Pats flying high
There may be no team hotter than the Patriots right now. Just ask the Jets, the latest victims of New England's powerhouse offense.
The Patriots' 49-19 rout of the Jets on Thanksgiving night was their 18th straight victory after the halfway mark of the season, a streak that goes back to 2010. And if the Patriots beat the Dolphins Sunday, it will mark their 12th straight December win, a run that goes back to Dec. 13, 2009. Only three other teams, including the 2006-08 Patriots, have won as many as 12 straight December games. The 2006-09 Chargers have the NFL record for most consecutive December wins (18).
Another extraordinary number for this year's Patriots: They league the NFL with a plus 24 turnover ratio, thanks largely to an opportunistic defense and Tom Brady's remarkably efficient performance. He has 24 touchdowns and only three interceptions.
"There's nothing more important than possession of the football," Brady said. "Our defense has done an incredible job taking it away. The offense has done a great job of keeping the ball away from the defense. It's a point of emphasis every day in practice. It's probably the one stat that correlates to winning and losing more than any other."
Historic start for Luck
Colts rookie quarterback Andrew Luck continues to play as if he's a seasoned veteran, with the numbers offering further proof of why he was the No. 1 overall draft pick.
Luck already has 3,205 passing yards, the most by any rookie through 11 games. He's on pace to surpass Cam Newton's NFL record of most passing yards by a rookie (4,051 in 2011). Luck is also close to breaking Peyton Manning's franchise rookie record of 3,739 yards in 1998.
More impressive numbers for Luck: He has seven wins, tied for the most by a rookie quarterback drafted No. 1 overall. Sam Bradford had seven wins for the Rams in 2010.
- 49ers second-year linebacker Aldon Smith leads the NFL with 16½ sacks and has a decent chance of breaking former Giants defensive end Michael Strahan's NFL single-season record of 22½ in 2001. Smith last week became the fastest player to reach 30 career sacks (he has 30½) since sacks became an official stat in 1982.
- The Ravens, who host the Steelers on Sunday, have won 15 straight regular season home games, the longest active streak in the NFL. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco is 32-5 at home.