Stats & Info: Peyton Manning

Manning, Dalton have something to prove

December, 22, 2014
Dec 22
Joe Amon/The Denver Post/Getty ImagesPeyton Manning has struggled in the red zone his last three games.
Both quarterbacks have something to prove on “Monday Night Football” this week (yes, including Peyton Manning).

In the previous three weeks, the only qualified quarterbacks with fewer completions per game than Manning (15.0) are Geno Smith, Zach Mettenberger and Ryan Fitzpatrick. Manning has completed fewer than 20 passes in three consecutive games for the second time in his career.

Manning is averaging more off-target passes per game (6.7) than in his first 11 games (6.4), despite averaging 15 fewer attempts per game. Manning has been off-target on 27 percent of his throws in that span, the second-highest percentage in the league (Colin Kaepernick, 33 percent).

Red-zone difficulties
The red zone used to be automatic for Manning, who led the league in completion percentage, touchdown passes and Total QBR in the red zone through his first 11 games.

Red-zone weapon Julius Thomas still leads the league with nine red-zone touchdown catches, but he missed three straight games because of injury and was limited last Sunday. Manning has connected on 86.6 percent of red-zone passes to Thomas this season but 67.1 percent to all other receivers.

If Manning is under pressure to improve, imagine how Andy Dalton feels. The Bengals are 0-2 in prime-time games this year, with the third-worst points margin (minus-47) and turnover margin (minus-6) among the 31 teams with a prime-time game (7 ET or later). In non-prime-time games, Cincinnati has a 9-2-1 record with a plus-69 points margin and plus-4 turnover margin.

Day and night
Dalton is the biggest reason for the Bengals’ prime-time struggles. Dalton has a career .694 winning percentage in afternoon games, trailing only Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Alex Smith and Andrew Luck. In that same span, Dalton has a .250 winning percentage in prime time, better than only Christian Ponder (.200) among qualified quarterbacks.

It’s also not just this year. Under Marvin Lewis, the Bengals have really struggled in prime time. Since Lewis became the head coach in 2003, Cincinnati is 6-15 in prime time (.286 win percentage, 28th in NFL), with a minus-8.4-point margin per game that ranks 30th in the league. Only the Bills (minus-8.9) and Raiders (minus-10) have worse per-game point margins in prime time than the Bengals under Lewis.

Luck channels inner Peyton Manning

November, 4, 2014
Nov 4
AP Photo/Bill KostrounAndrew Luck has 300 passing yards in seven straight games.

It seems that every week Andrew Luck matches or surpasses his predecessor Peyton Manning in some regard.

On Monday, Luck had his seventh straight 300-yard passing game, setting a new Colts franchise record and tying Manning for the third-longest streak in NFL history.

Luck now has 3,085 passing yards this season. Only once in history has a player had more through the first nine games of a season -- Manning (3,249) last season.

Luck joined Manning as the only quarterbacks with 23 passing touchdowns in each of their first three seasons.

Luck now has a career-high 26 passing touchdowns this season, passing Manning (24) for the most in the NFL.

Luck is the first player in NFL history with at least 350 passing yards in five straight road games, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

It was a different Manning -- Eli -- who went up against Luck on Monday. Eli fell to 0-3 in his career against the Colts (first two were against Peyton), while his head coach Tom Coughlin fell to 0-7 in his career against the Colts.

Eli and Luck made history together -- it was the first Monday Night Football game in history in which both quarterbacks had at least 350 passing yards with no interceptions.

But Eli left plenty of opportunities on the field.

Eli couldn't beat blitz
Eli Manning was 0-for-7 on throws at least 20 yards downfield. This season, he has completed four of 26 attempts thrown at least 20 yards downfield. Only Geno Smith has a lower completion percentage on those throws.

Manning overthrew his intended receiver on 10 attempts, matching the most overthrows he's had in a game since 2006. Four of Manning’s overthrows came on attempts thrown at least 20 yards downfield.

The Colts blitzed on 29 Manning dropbacks, the most by any team this season.

Manning was limited to 13-of-29 passing against the Colts blitz, including his fumble while being sacked in the third quarter.

The Colts limited Manning to 2-of-8 passing when under duress.

It was the Giants’ 24th straight game with a turnover, the longest active streak in the NFL.

The Colts are now 12-1 following a loss since Luck entered the league.

Inside the matchup: Brady vs. Manning

October, 30, 2014
Oct 30

Stew Milne/USA TODAY SportsFor the third straight regular season, Tom Brady hosts Peyton Manning in Foxborough.
The two oldest starting quarterbacks in the league this year will meet Sunday for the 16th time. Thirty-eight-year-old Peyton Manning and 37-year-old Tom Brady, with a combined 442 starts and 32 years of professional experience between them, should be facing two opponents each Sunday: opposing defenses and Father Time. Only eight of the 118 4,000-passing yard seasons since the merger were by quarterbacks age 37 or older, and given the high level of their primes, Manning and Brady should be declining.

Except they aren’t (at all). No one’s played better in October than Manning and Brady.
Career resumes and supporting casts aside, Total QBR gives a slight edge to Manning in October, but the season-long advantage is sizable (90.1 to Brady’s 75.4) for the reigning AFC champion.

Bill Belichick said Tuesday there were “no weaknesses in [Manning’s] game,” but his own quarterback has played pretty well, too. Here’s how Manning and Brady match up in a few specific areas of focus for quarterbacks.

Deep ball
Manning is 14-of-27 (51.8 percent) for 550 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions on throws at least 20 yards downfield, leading the league with a plus-six touchdown-to-interception differential and 20.4 yards per attempt average on deep throws.

He’s one of three quarterbacks with at least 25 downfield attempts and no interceptions.

Brady really struggled to connect downfield in the first four weeks, but he’s been on fire since.

Brady connected on one of his first 17 deep throws this season, but has connected at least once in each of his past four games.

Avoiding pressure
Manning has the lowest pressure percentage in the league (sacked, under duress or hit while throwing on 15 percent of dropbacks) because of his ability to get the ball out quickly. No quarterback has a lower time-in-pocket average than Manning’s 2.11 seconds.

Brady’s average time in pocket is 2.19 seconds, fourth fastest in the league. Brady’s hardly holding on to the ball too long, but offensive line inconsistency has left him more susceptible to pressure (23 percent of dropbacks, 14th in NFL).

Six different Patriots have played at least 100 snaps at guard or center this year, most of any team in the league (Denver’s used the minimum three).

Limiting mistakes
One by-product of the increased pressure on Brady has been fumbles. The only quarterback with more fumbles than Brady (six) is Jay Cutler (nine). Manning struggled with fumbles in 2013 (10), but has fumbled only twice this season.

However, even during Brady’s slow start this season he wasn’t throwing interceptions. The only quarterback with fewer interceptions than Brady (two) this season is Carson Palmer (one), and Palmer (four) has played half as many games as Brady (eight). Brady’s 0.7 interception percentage (two in 281 attempts) is the second lowest in the league and would be the lowest over a full season in Brady’s career. Hardly a risk taker, Manning has thrown three interceptions in 252 attempts this season for a 1.2 interception percentage, fifth best in the league.

Top stats to know: Broncos 35, Chargers 21

October, 24, 2014
Oct 24
Peyton Manning
The Denver Broncos beat the San Diego Chargers 35-21 on Thursday night. The game featured solid performances from both quarterbacks as expected, but Peyton Manning was simply better than Philip Rivers on this night.

The Broncos have now won four straight games by an average of 18.5 points per game, while the Chargers fell to 1-3 versus the Broncos since the start of last season (including playoffs).

More Manning records
Manning threw three touchdowns and no interceptions to extend his streak of consecutive games with at least one passing touchdown to 46 consecutive games, the longest active streak and the fourth-longest streak in NFL history. Over his past three games, Manning has thrown 10 touchdowns without throwing a single interception.

In fact, another multi-touchdown game gave Manning 13 straight games with multiple passing touchdowns, tying the NFL record held by himself, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. He eclipsed the 20-touchdown mark for the 16th season in his career, passing Brett Favre for the most such seasons all time.

Historically, Manning has excelled in Thursday games, holding the records for Thursday wins (10), passing yards (3,591) and passing touchdowns (38), according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Sanders’ breakout game
Manning had a favorite target and it was not Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas or Wes Welker. Instead it was Emmanuel Sanders, who had a career-high three touchdown catches against the Chargers. Manning was a perfect 9-for-9 for 120 yards, three touchdowns and six first downs when targeting Sanders.

Sanders became the fifth player to catch at least three touchdowns in a single game this season and the fourth to do it in a primetime game. Prior to Thursday, Sanders had not had a multi-touchdown game in his 62-game career.

Quick hitters
• Juwan Thompson ran for two touchdowns after having one career touchdown entering the game.

• Since 2012, the Broncos are 19-2 at home and 13-1 versus divisional opponents, both NFL bests.

• Rivers threw for three touchdowns in a losing effort, but his streak of seven straight games with at least two touchdown passes broke the Chargers franchise record set by Dan Fouts in 1981, according to Elias.

• Antonio Gates had 54 receiving yards to bring his career total to 9,610, passing Lance Alworth for most career receiving yards in Chargers history. Gates also caught two touchdown passes to bring his season total to nine, tying Julius Thomas for most this season.

Inside the matchup: 49ers at Broncos

October, 17, 2014
Oct 17

Chris Humphreys/USA TODAY SportsThe 49ers can't afford Manning time to throw if they want to keep him from passing Brett Favre.
Peyton Manning is two touchdown passes shy of Brett Favre’s all-time NFL record (508). Pressure will be the 49ers key to postponing the celebration another week:

49ers: Pressure Manning
Manning has been pressured (under duress or sacked) on 19 percent of his dropbacks in losses, and roughly 13 percent in wins. He's been sacked at double the rate in losses than wins.

Manning has thrown nine interceptions under duress with the Broncos; six have come in losses.

However, the 49ers problem on defense this season has been pressure, ranking 23rd in the NFL in pressure percentage, compared with 10th last season.

The Niners actually matched their season sack total with five Monday night, but that came against Austin Davis.

It could get tougher in Denver if they are missing defensive leader Patrick Willis, when they will already be without Aldon Smith and NaVorro Bowman.

Broncos: Keep Kaepernick in pocket
Colin Kaepernick leads the NFL with six touchdown passes thrown from outside the pocket this season, and they’ve been unconventional.

Each of the last four have come with Kaepernick running to his left (often throwing across his body), including an incredible off-balance pass to Anquan Boldin on Monday Night Football.

Kaepernick can also beat you with his legs outside. His 185 rushing yards outside the tackles this season rank behind only DeMarco Murray and LeSean McCoy.

The Broncos have reason to be especially concerned after Russell Wilson beat them with his legs in Week 2, handing Denver its only loss of the season.

On the Seahawks game-winning overtime drive, Wilson threw for three first downs outside the pocket, and scrambled for two more.

In that game, Wilson's eight completed passes outside the pocket were one shy of his career high.

Control tight ends
The name of the game is putting points on the board, and nobody helps their respective quarterbacks do that more than tight ends Vernon Davis and Julius Thomas.

Davis has been on the receiving end of 15 of the 49ers 31 (48.4 percent) touchdown passes since the start of last season. That makes him responsible for the highest percentage of a team’s receiving touchdowns in the NFL over that span.

On the other side, Julius Thomas leads the NFL with nine receiving touchdowns this season, tied for most by any player through his team’s first five games of a season in NFL history (Calvin Johnson – 2011).

Thomas has been tough to guard in the red zone, catching 23-of-27 targets with 15 touchdowns since the start of last season. And if Willis is out, that’s one less defender San Francisco can use to slow him.

Top stats to know: 2014 Indianapolis Colts

July, 28, 2014
Jul 28

Sam Riche/Getty ImagesAndrew Luck and head coach Chuck Pagano look to return to the playoffs for the 3rd straight season.
SportsCenter is at Indianapolis Colts camp today. Here's a look at the most significant statistical storylines for this team heading into the 2014 season.

1. Andrew Luck joined Russell Wilson as the only quarterbacks to lead a team to 11-plus wins in each of his first two seasons. The only other Colts quarterback to lead the team to consecutive 11-plus win seasons was Peyton Manning, who did it seven straight seasons from 2003-09.

2. Since 1998 (Peyton Manning’s rookie season), the Colts have the second-best regular-season winning percentage in the NFL (64.5 percent). However, the Colts’ postseason winning percentage during that span is 45.5 percent, tied for 16th in the league. No team has more playoff losses since 1998 (12) than the Colts.

3. Luck’s 64 Total QBR since 2012 ranks eighth in the NFL, but his 54 playoff QBR is ninth out of 12 quarterbacks with multiple playoff starts over that span. No quarterback has more playoff interceptions than Luck in the last two seasons, and his minus-two TD-Int differential is tied with Andy Dalton for worst since 2012.

Pep Hamilton took steps to limit the pressure on Luck in his first year as Colts offensive coordinator. Luck’s average throw was 8.0 yards downfield last year, 25th-longest among qualified quarterbacks. Luck’s average throw was 10.0 yards downfield in his rookie year, deepest in the league.

4. Last season, the Colts ranked ninth in scoring defense (21.0 PPG allowed), the first time the defense had cracked the top 10 in scoring in the last five seasons. The Colts were undefeated last season when holding opponents to 17 points or fewer (7-0).

Peter G. Aiken/Getty ImagesReggie Wayne returns for his 14th season.

5. Wide receiver Reggie Wayne has been cleared to practice after a torn right ACL ended his 2013 season in Week 7. Wayne is entering his 14th season with the Colts, and his 1,006 receptions rank eighth all-time, 18 behind Isaac Bruce. In Luck’s career, he has a 69 Total QBR with Wayne on the field and 49 without Wayne.

6. Trent Richardson's Colts career has been a disappointment so far. His 2.9 yards per rush average in 14 games would have ranked 46th of 48 qualified rushers and was the lowest by a Colts’ running back with 100 rushes since 1992. The Colts were without a first-round pick in this year’s draft for the first time since 2008 after trading it to acquire Richardson.

7. On day two of the draft, the Colts selected Ohio State offensive tackle Jack Mewhort and Ole Miss wide receiver Donte Moncrief. Since Luck’s rookie season (2012), his 374 dropbacks under pressure are the most in the NFL. Last season, Colts’ wide receivers dropped 5.2 percent of their targets, fourth-worst in the league.

8. The Colts will start the season without a pair of defensive stalwarts - safety Antoine Bethea (signed with the 49ers), and pass-rush specialist Robert Mathis (suspended). Since his 2006 rookie season, Bethea’s 804 tackles led all defensive backs and his 14 career interceptions are a team high. Mathis’ 19.5 sacks led the league last year, but he will miss the first four games of the season for violating the league’s performance-enhancing substance policy.

9. The Colts will open the season against the Denver Broncos and Philadelphia Eagles, who ranked first and second respectively, in yards gained last season. Indianapolis is without Mathis to face Peyton Manning (NFL record 55 pass TD in 2013) and Nick Foles (27 TD and 2 Int in 13 games last year).

10. Andrew Luck was at his best late in games last season. His 82 Total QBR in the fourth quarter and overtime was fourth-best in the NFL, and his 10 game-winning drives since 2012 are the most of any quarterback.

Luck showed off his ability to create with his legs as well. Since he entered the league, no quarterback has more scramble touchdowns than Luck (5).

Top stats to know: 2014 Denver Broncos

July, 24, 2014
Jul 24
SportsCenter will be in the Denver Broncos camp on Thursday to visit with the AFC champs. Here's a look at the most significant statistical storylines for this team heading into the 2014 season.

1. The Broncos will attempt to accomplish something that hasn’t been done in over 40 years: win a Super Bowl after losing it the previous season. The last team to accomplish that was the 1972 Dolphins, who beat the Redskins in Super Bowl VII to complete a perfect season after losing to the Cowboys in Super Bowl VI.

2. Since Peyton Manning arrived in Denver two seasons ago, the Broncos have the best regular-season record in the NFL (26-6). They will look to win a fourth straight division title for the first time in franchise history, and will also attempt to become the first AFC West team to win a Super Bowl since 1998.

3. Peyton Manning threw an NFL-record 55 touchdown passes last season, and with 18 more this season will pass Brett Favre (508) for the most in NFL history. Manning threw more touchdown passes in 2013 than each of the other 31 teams scored total touchdowns last season.

What made Manning so effective last season was that he threw the ball effectively to all areas of the field, as this image below shows.

4. The Broncos lost wide receiver Eric Decker to the Jets in free agency. Decker was the Broncos’ most effective deep threat last season, leading the team with 24 receptions and 6 touchdowns on passes thrown 15 or more yards downfield. Only A.J. Green, Josh Gordon and DeSean Jackson had more touchdown catches on such throws last season.

5. The team drafted Cody Latimer and signed Emmanuel Sanders to help replace Decker, but more responsibility will likely fall on the shoulders of Demaryius Thomas. He was second in the NFL with 14 touchdown receptions last season and the team is currently negotiating with him on a long-term contract extension, since he is an unrestricted free agent after 2014.

6. Montee Ball is currently listed as the top running back on the depth chart, replacing Knowshon Moreno, who signed with the Dolphins in free agency. Ball averaged 2.55 yards after contact per rush in the team’s last eight games in 2013, the fourth most in the NFL during that span. Ball also had more rushing touchdowns (3) than Moreno (2) during that span despite having half the number of rushes.

7. Along with a returning Von Miller, the Broncos made some big acquisitions on the defensive side. Perhaps the biggest is DE DeMarcus Ware, whose 63.5 sacks in the last five seasons are second in the NFL behind Jared Allen. Miller and Ware each had at least 35 sacks from 2011 to 2013, meaning (via the Elias Sports Bureau) the Broncos will be the third team since 2000 to have two players that each had 35 sacks in the previous three years.

8. The Broncos also acquired cornerback Aqib Talib and safety T.J. Ward. Talib has 19 interceptions in the last five seasons, tied for seventh in the NFL since 2009. Ward had 112 tackles last season, second most on the Browns and 40 more than any Broncos defensive back.

9. The Broncos particularly needed help in the secondary. They had the 27th-ranked pass defense last season (254.4 yards per game) and allowed 58 completions on balls thrown at least 15 yards downfield, tied for the fourth most in the NFL.

10. The Broncos open up the season with three straight games against 2013 playoff teams: home games against the Colts and Chiefs followed by a Super Bowl rematch in Seattle in Week 3. The Broncos' five scheduled prime-time games are tied for the most in the league.

The stats behind the ESPY candidates

July, 10, 2014
Jul 10
Adam Pretty/Getty ImagesThis is what they hope to win.
With the ESPY Awards almost upon us, let's take a look at three of the top categories to provide statistical insight into who may walk away with the trophy as Best Male Athlete, Best Female Athlete and Best Team.

Best Male Athlete
Miguel Cabrera – MLB
Cabrera led the majors in batting average (.348) and finished second in home runs (44) and runs batted in (137). His 9.0 offensive wins above replacement was second in MLB. Cabrera became the first player to win consecutive MVP awards in the AL since Frank Thomas in 1993-94 and just the seventh man in AL history.

Kevin Durant – NBA
Durant was the first player since Shaquille O’Neal in 1999-2000 to lead the NBA in points per game (32.0), player efficiency rating (29.9) and win shares (19.2). Durant also made history this season by becoming the fourth player to average at least 32 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists, joining Hall of Fame players Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor.

Peyton Manning – NFL
Manning set the NFL single-season records for passing TDs (55) and passing yards (5,477). Manning had a Total QBR of 95.8 in the red zone as well as an overall Total QBR of 82.9, which ranked second in the league. Manning was spectacular in his first two playoff games, putting up QBR numbers of 91.1 and 88.8 to get to his second Super Bowl.

Floyd Mayweather – Boxing
Mayweather defeated Saul “Canelo” Álvarez by landing almost double the punches (232 to 117) en route to a majority decision victory. That fight also set the record for largest gate in Nevada State Boxing history at over $20 million. Mayweather then defeated Marcos Maidana by majority decision in May. Mayweather landed 54 percent of total punches and 65 percent of power punches. He earned $105 million for the two fights.

Best Female Athlete
Maya Moore – WNBA
Moore was named the 2013 WNBA Finals MVP for the Minnesota Lynx, averaging 20 points per game in a three-game sweep of the Atlanta Dream. Moore was the top three-point shooter in the regular season at 45.3 percent and scored 18.8 points per game, third in the league.

Ronda Rousey – MMA
Rousey moved her MMA record to 10-0 over the past year, recording the first two knockouts of her career in wins over Sara McMann and Alexis Davis. In December, Rousey won her eighth fight by armbar when she defeated Miesha Tate at UFC 168. In her last three fights, Rousey has landed 77 percent of her takedowns.

Mikaela Shiffrin – Alpine Skiing
Shiffrin became the youngest Olympic slalom gold medalist when she won in Sochi at age 18. She ended the 2014 season as the reigning Olympic, World Cup and world champion in slalom. In the 2014 season, Shiffrin won five times and had six podiums in slalom.

Breanna Stewart – WCBB
Stewart led the UConn women’s basketball team to their second national title in a row and in doing so won her second consecutive Final Four Most Outstanding Player award. Stewart led the team in points per game (19.4) and rebounds per game (8.1) and in the national title game scored 21 points (18 in the paint) to lead the Huskies.

Best Team
Boston Red Sox – MLB
The Boston Red Sox won their third World Series in 10 years by leading the majors in runs scored, slugging and OPS. David Ortiz led the charge for the Red Sox, hitting .688 (11-for-16) with two home runs and six RBIs in the World Series while Jon Lester went 2-0 with a 0.59 ERA.

Los Angeles Kings – NHL
The Los Angeles won their second Stanley Cup in three years with Jonathan Quick in net. Quick won 43 games (regular season and playoffs) and posted a 2.07 GAA (fifth-lowest). In the playoffs, Justin Williams took home the Conn Smythe for playoff MVP, scoring nine goals with 16 assists, including the OT winner in Game 1. The Kings had a plus-17 goal differential in the 3rd period/OT (plus-1 in first two periods).

San Antonio Spurs – NBA
The San Antonio Spurs were sixth in both points per game (105.4) and fewest points allowed (97.6) which helped them lead the NBA in wins with 62. The Spurs set the NBA Finals record in the three-point era (since 1979-80) for effective field goal percentage (60.4 percent) and offensive rating (118.5). Tim Duncan became the all-time leader in playoff double-doubles, but Kawhi Leonard was the star. Leonard averaged 17.8 points on 61 percent shooting in the Finals, becoming the second-youngest Finals MVP.

Seattle Seahawks – NFL
The Seattle Seahawks defense ranked first in points per game allowed, receiving yards allowed and total yards allowed. In the Super Bowl, the Seahawks shut the Broncos high-scoring offense down, winning by 35 points which was the third-largest win in Super Bowl history. Russell Wilson threw 26 touchdowns in the regular season and in the Super Bowl put up a Total QBR of 88.1. Richard Sherman led the NFL with eight interceptions and caused the interception that sent the Seahawks to the Super Bowl.

UConn Women’s Basketball – WCBB
The Connecticut Huskies are one of eight teams to finish the season undefeated after their 40-0 season. The Huskies finished the season outscoring opponents by 34.3 points per game while holding opponents to just 47.8 points per game. Along with Breanna Stewart, Bria Hartley was second on the team with 16.2 points per game and center Stephanie Dolson scored 17 points and grabbed 16 rebounds in the Huskies national title win over Notre Dame.

Florida State Football – CFB
Florida State won the national championship and completed at 14-0 undefeated season by averaging 51.6 points per game. On defense, FSU led college football in both interceptions (26) and interceptions returned for touchdowns (5). Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston had an 88.5 adjusted QBR and threw for over 4,000 yards and 40 touchdowns. He threw the game-winning touchdown pass in the national title game to Kelvin Benjamin, who was second on the team in receiving yards (1,011) and led the team with 15 touchdowns.

Top stats to know: 2014 NFL schedule

April, 23, 2014
Apr 23

Jennifer Stewart/Getty ImagesThe 2014 NFL season will culminate at Super Bowl XLIX at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Sure it is April, but the 2014 NFL schedule has been released and that means it is time to get ready for a season full of intriguing matchups.

From high-profile veterans facing their former teams, to the 16th meeting between Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, here is a look at some of the early highlights of the 2014 season:

Reunion games
DeSean Jackson, Steve Smith, Chris Johnson, Darrelle Revis, Jared Allen and Julius Peppers.

Those are just a handful of veterans released during the off-season who will have a chance to play against their former teams in 2014.

After a career year in 2013, Jackson was released by the Eagles this off-season. He will face the Eagles twice this season (Week 3 in Philadelphia and Week 16 in Washington).

Smith, the Panthers career leader in touchdowns, receptions and receiving yards, promised there would be "blood and guts everywhere" if he faced the Panthers in 2014 after being released by the team in March. As a member of the Baltimore Ravens, Smith will get a crack at the Panthers on Sept. 28 in Baltimore.

Johnson only joined the Jets a little more than a week ago, but he's already slated for a Tennessee reunion. Johnson and the Jets will travel to Tennessee Week 15 to take on the Titans. Johnson has posted six straight 1,000-yard seasons, the longest active streak in the NFL.

Allen signed a 4-year deal with the Bears at the end of March after spending six seasons in Minnesota. Allen led the NFL with 85.5 sacks during his Vikings tenure. Allen will face the Vikings twice this season (Week 11 and Week 17).

Peppers is now on the other side of the NFL's most-played rivalry after signing a three-year deal with the Packers in March just days after being released by the Bears. Peppers totaled 38 sacks in his four seasons in Chicago and made three Pro Bowls.

And a college reunion
Former Oregon head coach Chip Kelly and the Eagles will play the NFC West this season as part of the standard division rotation.

Kelly will have the opportunity to coach against former Pac-10 coaching rivals Pete Carroll (USC) and Jim Harbaugh (Stanford). As a head coach, Kelly was a combined 2-1 against Carroll and Harbaugh with a win over each.

Kelly and the Eagles will also travel to Indianapolis in Week 2 for a Monday Night Football showdown against former Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck. Kelly's Oregon teams were 2-1 against Stanford during Andrew Luck's collegiate career.

Top games
On Nov. 2, Manning and Brady will meet for the 16th time, including the playoffs, tied for the most between any pair of Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks.

Manning will also face his former team for the second time as the Broncos will host the Colts to open their season. Manning and the Broncos lost to the Colts 39-33 in 2013.

Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, the top two picks in the 2012 draft, will meet for the first time in Week 13. In their young careers, Griffin III is 12-16, while Luck is 22-10.

A rematch of last year's Super Bowl, Broncos-Seahawks, will also take place this season. The Seahawks' 35-point margin of victory in the Super Bowl is tied for the third largest in NFL history.

Seahawks' Super Bowl win a slam dunk

February, 3, 2014
Feb 3

Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY Sports
Malcolm Smith recovered a fumble and returned an interception for a touchdown in Seattle's victory.
Their first defensive snap resulted in a safety. Their first offensive drive produced points. Their kickoff return to start the second half was a touchdown.

In all phases of the game, the Seattle Seahawks dominated the Denver Broncos in winning Super Bowl XLVIII, 43-8.

Seahawks’ defense locks down Broncos
The Seahawks forced the Broncos into their worst offensive-efficiency performance of the season. The Broncos’ offense contributed minus-21.6 points to their net scoring margin, their first game this season with a negative offensive efficiency. They entered the Super Bowl as the only team without such a game this season.

The first-snap safety was only part of the Broncos’ offensive difficulties. Peyton Manning averaged 8.2 yards per completion (league average in 2013: 11.6 yards). Malcolm Smith returned one of Manning's two interceptions for a touchdown. It added up to the Seahawks’ second-best game in terms of defensive efficiency this season, behind their shutout win against Eli Manning and the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium in Week 15 (plus-24.3 points).

The performance in the Super Bowl crowned the Seahawks’ season-long stretch of defensive supremacy. They finished the season with the league’s best defensive efficiency, contributing 7.2 points per game to their net scoring margin (the next closest team: Cincinnati Bengals, 4.7). Of those 7.2 points, an NFL-high 6.3 per game were on pass plays. The Seahawks’ defensive efficiency on pass plays Sunday equaled 14.3 points toward their scoring margin.

The Seahawks' defensive efficiency in the Super Bowl was the best in a postseason game since the 2009 wild-card round (the Baltimore Ravens contributed 23.1 points against the New England Patriots).

But the Seahawks dominated in every phase, not just defense. Their offense had zero turnovers, allowed zero sacks and limited negative plays to three. The Seahawks converted 7 of 12 third-down plays.

And their special teams added a touchdown on Percy Harvin’s return of the second-half kickoff for a touchdown.

Manning struggles, Wilson reverses field
Manning's 24.4 Total QBR in the Super Bowl was his lowest in a game this season and the worst in a Super Bowl since the Chicago Bears' Rex Grossman in 2006 (7.1).

Russell Wilson posted a 88.1 Total QBR, the second-highest in a Super Bowl since 2006 (Joe Flacco had a 93.4 last year), and it snapped Wilson's streak of six games with a Total QBR of less than 50.0. Wilson's Total QBR in his first two postseason games this season was 34.3.

Wilson completed 7 of 8 passes for 82 yards and six first-downs on third-down plays.

Game was out of hand early
The Broncos' first play from scrimmage, a safety, resulted in a 4.7-point hit to the team's offensive efficiency.

After Manning's interception that Smith returned for a touchdown with 3:36 left in the first half, the Broncos' win probability dropped to 3.5 percent. It never rose to more than 5 percent.

The Broncos ran 41 offensive plays with a win probability below 5.0 percent. They ran 19 such plays the rest of the season.

Seahawks dominate with all-around effort

February, 2, 2014
Feb 2
ESPN Stats & InformationFor the fourth time in the past five Super Bowl matchups, the top defense has defeated the top offense.
The Seattle Seahawks won their first Super Bowl in franchise history and it came in dominating fashion.

Their 35-point victory over the Denver Broncos is tied for the third-largest margin of victory in Super Bowl history.

The Seahawks got the job done on defense and special teams. They're the second team with a passing touchdown, rushing touchdown, kickoff return touchdown and interception return touchdown in a Super Bowl. The Baltimore Ravens accomplished the feat in Super Bowl XXXV.

Malcolm Smith
Malcolm Smith was named Super Bowl MVP, the first defensive player to win the honor since Dexter Jackson for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl XXXVII.

Smith is the third linebacker to win Super Bowl MVP, joining Ray Lewis for the Ravens in Super Bowl XXXV and Chuck Howley for the Colts in Super Bowl V.

Smith is the first player in Super Bowl history with an interception return touchdown and a fumble recovery in the same game. He also added nine defensive tackles and one special teams tackle.

The history
The Seahawks are the 19th different team to win a Super Bowl and the first team to win the Super Bowl in a season in which they had or shared the league’s best record since the 2003 New England Patriots.

The NFL’s No. 1 team in scoring defense is now 13-3 all-time in Super Bowls. They’ve won four of five Super Bowls when facing the No. 1 scoring offense.

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is the fourth quarterback to win a Super Bowl in his second NFL season, joining Kurt Warner, Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger.

Inexperienced quarterbacks have gotten the better of experienced ones of late. The last four matchups between a starting quarterback playing in his first Super Bowl and one with previous Super Bowl experience have been won by the quarterback with no previous experience.

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll (62 years old) is the third-oldest head coach to win a Super Bowl, trailing only Tom Coughlin (65) and Dick Vermeil (63). He’s the third coach to win a Super Bowl and win an AP national title in college football, along with Barry Switzer and Jimmy Johnson.

The Broncos became the first team with five Super Bowl losses. They extended the losing streak by AFC No. 1 seeds in Super Bowls to four games.

Peyton Manning’s 12 postseason losses are the most in NFL history, surpassing Brett Favre. The past six reigning MVPs who were quarterbacks lost their Super Bowl appearance that season.

Other stats of note
In the loss, Manning and Demaryius Thomas both set Super Bowl records. Manning set the record for most completions in a Super Bowl with 34. Thomas set the record for most receptions in a Super Bowl with 13.

Manning is the third quarterback ever to throw multiple career interceptions returned for a touchdown in the Super Bowl.

Wilson is the fifth quarterback ever with at least two passing touchdowns, 200 passing yards and a 70 percent completion rate in a Super Bowl win, joining Drew Brees, Troy Aikman, Joe Montana and Phil Simms. Wilson is the only one of those quarterbacks to not win the Super Bowl MVP award.

Manning is the sixth straight regular-season MVP to lose in a Super Bowl appearance during that same season.

Top stats to know: NFL Awards preview

February, 1, 2014
Feb 1

Getty ImagesPeyton Manning and Richard Sherman are among the favorites to win Player of the Year awards.
The NFL will hand out its annual awards tonight for MVP, Offensive Player of Year, Defensive Player of Year, Coach of Year, Offensive Rookie of Year, and Defensive Rookie of Year. Here’s what you need to know in advance of the announcement.

MVP/Offensive Player of Year
Peyton Manning is among the favorites to win his fifth AP MVP award, which would be two more than any other player.

He’d be the first player to win the AP MVP award for more than one team.

Manning set the NFL single-season records for passing touchdowns and passing yards this season. He was at his best in the red zone, where he ranked first in completion percentage, touchdown-to-interception ratio and Total QBR.

Jamaal Charles could give Manning a run for the AP MVP or the Offensive Player of the Year awards. Charles led the Kansas City Chiefs in rushing yards, receiving yards and total touchdowns this season, the first player to lead his team in all three categories since Marshall Faulk for the 1998 Indianapolis Colts.

Defensive Player of Year
Robert Mathis is among the frontrunners for Defensive Player of the Year after leading the NFL with 19.5 sacks and eight forced fumbles. He’s the first player since the NFL officially began tracking sacks in 1982 to have at least 19 sacks and eight forced fumbles in a season.

He also broke the Colts single-season sack record set by Dwight Freeney in 2004 and was the first NFL player to record at least 19 sacks in his age 32 season or older.

Richard Sherman, who had a league-best eight interceptions this season, is another favorite for the Defensive Player of the Year award.

Sherman led a dominant Seahawks defense that ranked first in the NFL in points allowed, Total QBR, passing yardage and interceptions.

Coach of Year
Andy Reid is one of the main contenders for Coach of the Year after leading the Chiefs to an 11-5 record in his first season as their coach.

Last season, the Chiefs finished 2-14. The nine-win increase is tied for the third-largest in NFL history from one season to the next.

The Chiefs also became just the third team in NFL history to win at least 11 games following a season with two or fewer wins, joining the 2012 Colts and 2008 Miami Dolphins.

Offensive Rookie of Year
Eddie Lacy is among the favorites for Offensive Rookie of the Year after setting a Green Bay Packers rookie record with 1,178 rush yards. After coming back from a concussion in Week 5, he ranked second in the NFL in rushing the rest of the way, trailing only LeSean McCoy.

Defensive Rookie of Year
Kiko Alonso, one of three defensive players to play every one of his team’s snaps this season, headlines a group of strong candidates for Defensive Rookie of the Year. Alonso’s 159 tackles ranked third in the NFL this season and were the third-most by a rookie in the last 10 seasons.

Key: Broncos protection vs. Seahawks rush

January, 30, 2014
Jan 30

Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos' wide receivers will have their hands full with the Seattle Seahawks' secondary in Super Bowl XLVIII, as detailed here .

As good as the Seahawks’ secondary has been, the pass rush is just as crucial for the NFL’s top defense. How they are able to disrupt Manning will be another key matchup to watch Sunday.

No pressure on Manning
In the NFL this season, quarterbacks were sacked or put under duress (Duress is defined as when the quarterback is forced to scramble, move or alter a throw due to defensive pressure) on 26 percent of their dropbacks. Manning was pressured on a league-low 14 percent of his dropbacks this season.

Manning has yet to be sacked this postseason and he’s been under duress on only five of his 79 dropbacks (6 percent).

Manning had the best completion percentage under duress this season, but the pressure still affects his play, making his protection so important.

A lot of the credit goes to the Broncos’ offensive line. The five-man unit of Chris Clark, Zane Beadles, Manny Ramirez, Louis Vasquez and Orlando Franklin have been on field together for 80 percent of the Broncos’ snaps this season (1,031 total), including every postseason snap.

Manning also gets credit for the lack of pressure. On average, Manning has held onto the ball for 2.34 seconds from snap to pass this season. Only Andy Dalton and Chad Henne (each at 2.29 seconds) had quicker times.

Getting pressure with four
The Seahawks defense has pressured opposing quarterbacks on 32 percent of dropbacks this season, best in the NFL.

The Seahawks have been able to get pressure even when relying heavily on a four-man pass rush. During the regular season the Seahawks sent four or fewer pass rushers 73 percent of the time, eighth highest in the NFL. This postseason, the Seahawks have done so on all but three dropbacks (96 percent).

One of the keys as to why the Seahawks’ pass rush has been so successful is a strong defensive line rotation. Seven defensive lineman have played at least 500 snaps for the Seahawks this season, and none have played more than 58 percent of the team’s snaps.

Who has the upper hand?
The Seahawks have generated pressure on at least 21 percent of dropbacks in every game this season, something that Manning has had happen only four times (2-2 in those games).

The key to getting or preventing pressure in the game could be time.

Although Manning has a quick release, Seahawks’ opponents have held the ball for 2.77 seconds from snap to pass this season, fourth longest in the NFL.

However, if the Broncos are able to sustain long drives, then Manning’s no-huddle style of offense could fatigue the Seahawks’ pass rushers.

The Broncos have averaged 8.8 plays per drive this postseason, up from 5.7 in the regular season, and have recorded a first down on all but one of their 16 postseason drives (Julius Thomas fumbled after gaining first-down yardage on the drive).

Key matchup: Manning vs. the secondary

January, 30, 2014
Jan 30
Peyton Manning threw for more touchdowns and yards than any quarterback in NFL history this season. The Seattle Seahawks were the first team to lead the league in points allowed, yards allowed and takeaways since the 1985 Chicago Bears.

How Manning and his receivers navigate the stingy Seahawks’ secondary is just one of the key matchups to watch between the Denver Broncos' offense and Seahawks’ defense in Super Bowl XLVIII.

Richard Sherman owns the right side
Sherman has lined up on the offense’s right side on 98 percent of his snaps this season and confirmed at media day he will face whoever lines up on his side.

None of the Broncos’ top three wide receivers (Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Wes Welker) lined up on the right for more than 52 percent of their snaps, and Manning might be wise to limit his attempts to them when they do line up on that side of the field.

As seen in the chart, the Seahawks allowed only 53.6 percent of passes thrown to the right side of the field to be completed this season, second best in the NFL. Their completion percentage allowed over the middle ranks 25th while the left ranks 12th.

Manning has completed 64 percent of his passes to the right side of the field this season, compared to 72 percent to the left or middle.

Beat the press
The Seahawks showed press coverage on 41 percent of the pass routes run by players split out wide this season, third highest in the NFL. Press coverage is defined as a defensive back lining up within about 1.5 yards of the line of scrimmage directly across a receiver.

When opponents targeted a receiver that started the play facing press coverage, the Seahawks allowed a 47 percent completion percentage and a minus-10 TD-Int differential. When not facing press coverage, receivers caught 65 percent of their targets with a plus-1 TD-Int differential.

Manning has targeted his top three wide receivers almost equally this season when facing press coverage (204 attempts) and not facing press coverage (225 attempts), but Welker is the only one who isn’t greatly affected by a defender in his face pre-snap.

Manning could look to Julius Thomas more if the press proves a problem. Manning completed 74 percent of his passes to the tight end this season.

However, the Seahawks have also been able to limit top tight ends. Tony Gonzalez, Jimmy Graham and Vernon Davis combined for six games against the Seahawks this season. They finished with 14 receptions on 30 targets and 136 yards in those games.

Yards after catch
What the Broncos do after the catch could be as important as making the catch. The Broncos finished the regular season with the most yards after catch and boast the individual league leader from each of the past three seasons (Demaryius Thomas in 2013, Wes Welker in 2011 and 2012).

The Broncos averaged fewer than 5.0 yards after the catch in all three of their losses this season (eight times total). The Seahawks allowed the fewest yards after the catch this season, limiting opponents to 4.1 on average.

Cold weather usually an issue for Manning

January, 29, 2014
Jan 29

Joe Amon/The Denver Post/Getty ImagesPeyton Manning will likely need to bundle up on Sunday.
The current kickoff forecast for Super Bowl XLVIII is for temperatures in the mid-30s, which could pose a problem for Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning.

Manning has a career record of 8-11 playing outdoors with the temperature below 40 degrees, with 30 touchdowns and 23 interceptions. He’s 1-2 this season with losses to the New England Patriots and San Diego Chargers in night games and a win over the Titans in an afternoon contest.

Manning has a record of 85-35 outdoors when the temperature is 40 degrees or above, with a touchdown-to-interception ratio of better than 2-to-1.

Though Manning’s performance outdoors does drop off when the temperature falls, his numbers are on par with the NFL average of the past 10 seasons. His 62 percent completion percentage is better than average (58 percent) and his touchdown-to-interception ratio is a match (1.3).

This is the third time in his career Manning will be playing outdoors in the playoffs against the No. 1 scoring defense from the regular season. He's struggled in the previous two games (the 2003 AFC Championship Game and the 2006 AFC divisional round), completing less than half of his pass attempts, with one touchdown and six interceptions.

Russell Wilson has played only one game in which the kickoff temperature was below 40 degrees -- a Week 15 win against the New York Giants, when the game-time temperature was 36 degrees. Wilson was 18-for-27 for 206 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception.

Also of note: Both Manning and Wilson performed well in the wind this season. In their three windiest games of the season, the two combined to throw 13 touchdowns and only three interceptions.

Likeliest scenario
What can Manning and Wilson expect weather-wise?

New Jersey’s official climatologist, David Robinson, and his research team established, a website that contains historical weather data dating to Feb. 2, 1931.

He found the average temperature at the projected kickoff time is 34 degrees, with a 57 percent chance that the temperature will drop below freezing during the game.