Here’s Sunday’s matchup in an oversimplified, sensationalist nutshell: The solidification of a golden age vs. the end of the Peyton Era.
Manning has been part of the NFL’s elite since the 20th century, before a young Aaron Rodgers was even growing acne. The most amazing aspect of Peyton’s reign as king of the NFL’s regular season (until very recently) has been his pattern of slow and steady, especially when it comes to his success in the regular season.
According to fftoday.com, Peyton has ranked among the league’s top six fantasy quarterback in every season he has played since the turn of the century. Tom Brady has finished among the top six fantasy quarterbacks in less than half of those years.
The graph exemplifies Manning’s impressive fantasy stamina, up until the past couple years. Peyton had steadily maintained his fantasy football success over the past decade and a half. The man is a juggernaut among juggernauts.
While veterans like Drew Brees, Phillip Rivers, and even Tom Brady have had extremely sporadic fantasy results throughout their respective tenures, Peyton has experienced an extremely consistent rise in fantasy success, until last year.
Now, the NFL has a new commander-in-chief.
Aaron Rodgers is following up his second MVP award in four years with an even better statistical season than last year’s. On the flip side, Peyton’s play has continue to fall, as he finds himself outside of the top 20 in fantasy points per game. The following charts are normalized over the past six years (each point represents a fraction of the quarterbacks best performing season), and exemplify Rodger’s consistency and expected continuation of the green and golden era. The second graph shows Peyton’s lack stability in the past couple years.
The data tells us that Rodgers has maintained an insanely steady pace of excellency, whereas Peyton’s once steady numbers have taken a sharp decline in the past couple years. In short, Rodgers is on pace to win his third MVP award in five years, and Peyton is on pace to be eating Papa John’s every Sunday for the rest of his life.
There are a couple primary storylines to keep an eye on for the NFL’s best game of the week on Sunday night.
The first focuses on whether Peyton Manning still has the ability to withstand the pressure of Dom Capers’ defensive schemes, which ranks among the best in the NFL. The Packers have recorded a sack in 42 consecutive games, including nearly four sacks per game in the 2015 season. Partially a result of Peyton’s lack of mobility, he’s thrown ten interceptions in his first six games, which is on pace to surpass his career worst. Overall, Peyton’s sharp decline is as clear as day, when it comes to three of the most important categories for a quarterback.
The alternative storyline focuses on the question of Aaron Rodgers’ status in the MVP race. Denver enters Sunday’s game as the number one defense in yards allowed per game. That being said, Green Bay is currently the #1 defense in points allowed per game (16.8 PPG), which is just a fraction better than the Broncos’ second place defense (17 PPG). So, even if Rodgers struggles on a per-possession basis against the well oiled Broncos defense, he should be getting the ball back relatively quickly.
Both teams also rank first and second in sacks, and among the top three in turnover margins. So, it shouldn’t be so shocking if you read articles that predict a defensive showdown for Sunday night’s game.
That being said, the data clearly indicates that Peyton Manning is to 2001-2010 as Aaron Rodgers will likely be to the decade of 2011-2020.
Expect Peyton Manning to flounder against the dominant and destructive Green Bay pass rush, which should include at least a couple turnovers from the 17th season veteran. With Aaron Rodgers looking poised for as consistent of a season as his past six, expect the pride of Packer nation to lead the Packers with several passing touchdowns.
Overall, this game will likely signify the passing of the torch between an all-time great, and arguably the greatest of all-time.
Packers: 23, Broncos 17. Aaron 1, Peyton 0.