It makes a lot of sense that Packers coaches and defenders like Morgan Burnett are saying nice things about Peyton Manning and the Broncos offense. There’s never a reason to give the opposition bulletin board material. The Packers’ coaches and players are giving respect to a Hall of Fame QB and an offense that was very good two years ago. The consistent theme? He’s still Peyton Manning.
He’s really not. It’s not just this season either. Manning’s downturn started in the second half of last season. In Denver’s last eight games Manning threw for 400 fewer yards, averaged almost a full yard less per attempt and dropped 22 points in passer rating as compared to the first eight games. His TD/INT ratio dipped from 24/5 to 10/8. He and the offense did not play well in a playoff loss to Indianapolis.
Those problems have certainly continued into this season. Using ESPN’s QBR, Manning is 25th among quarterbacks in the NFL. Given that there are are only 32 quarterbacks in the league, that’s less than ideal. Manning is now averaging a paltry 6.4 yards per attempt and has a TD/INT ratio of 7/10. FootballOutsiders.com is far less kind to Manning, rating him last among qualified quarterbacks in DVOA.
Counting the playoff game, that’s a very rough 15 game stretch. Some would have you think he’s just going through a “rough spot”. It’s far more likely that a 39 year old QB who never had a particularly strong arm isn’t going to be a useful quarterback any more.
It’s not just Manning that has struggled, the entire Denver offense hasn’t been a very good unit all season long. FO ranks Denver’s offense 32nd (dead last) in DVOA. 32nd in passing and 30th in running the football. Denver’s offensive line has been putrid. They have been an abysmal run-blocking unit and have an adjusted sack rate that ranks in the bottom three in the league, despite how quickly Manning likes to get rid of the ball.
In contrast, the Packers defense is very much for real. Green Bay has been consistently ranked inside the top 10 in defensive DVOA, and is 6th currently. After a bye week, the Packers now rank 1st in scoring defense in the entire league. The pass rush specifically has been outstanding, ranking in the top 8 of adjusted sack rate.
In reality, the Packers have a very good defense going up against a bad offense with an immobile QB and a poor pass protecting line. If Green Bay was going up against Josh McCown on Sunday, a player who has very clearly outplayed Manning for the last twelve months, Packers fans would be less nervous.
It’s certainly possible that the Broncos win on Sunday. If they do win, you can bet that it’ll be the same way they’ve been winning all season, in spite of Manning’s poor play and because of their outstanding defense.
If Green Bay’s offense doesn’t look any better after getting multiple players back from injury, they could struggle to move the ball. The numbers and the film tell you that the Broncos are a great defense going up against a good Packers offense. They also tell you that the Packers have a good defense and the Broncos are awful offensively.