(BLEACHER REPORT) — It doesn’t matter that Peyton Manning is playing on a short week. He can still be expected to torch the Oakland Raiders on Thursday.
Even if they weren’t the Raiders—the second-worst team in the AFC West and one of the worst teams in the AFC overall—Manning could still be expected to dominate them. That’s what he does at this point in the season. And over the course of the last seven weeks, that’s all he’s been doing.
In the first five weeks of 2012, Manning’s Broncos were 2-3, and Manning was on the verge of entering bust territory. It just goes to show how pointless it is to judge a team based on the first few weeks of the season (and just look to Philadelphia and Arizona for further evidence!). Now, the Broncos have run away with the division, and Manning is a leading candidate for 2012 MVP.
This season, Manning ranks second in the league in passer rating. His 29 touchdown passes are tied for second in the league, his 3,502 passing yards put him in the top 10 and he’s only thrown nine interceptions. Moreover, he’s taken charge of this team and put them in prime position for a deep playoff run, which is something many people expected he wouldn’t be able to do when he first signed with Denver in April.
And now, over the last four weeks of the season, Denver only has one remotely challenging game remaining. It’s basically a breeze from here on out, and that starts on Thursday at Oakland.
The 3-9 Raiders haven’t won a game since facing Kansas City in Week 8. Their offense has averaged 14.7 points over their last three games, while their defense has allowed an average of 31—and it’s not like they’ve been playing the top teams, either. The last three have come against New Orleans, Cincinnati and Cleveland.
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