Peyton Manning hasn’t just answered questions about whether he’d return to form after neck surgery forced him to miss all of last season. Midway through the National Football League’s regular season, he’s emerged as the favorite to win another Most Valuable Player award.
The 36-year-old quarterback has thrown three touchdown passes in five straight games, helping the Denver Broncos go 4-1 in that stretch and climb into first place in the American Football Conference’s West Division with a 5-3 record.
Manning, whose Broncos visit the Carolina Panthers this weekend, is now listed as the 2-1 favorite to win a fifth NFL MVP award, according to online sportsbook Bovada.lv.
“It’s been a crash course and everybody’s been cramming, but you should be a little better in Week 9 than you were in Week 1,” said Manning, who’s in his first year in Denver after spending his first 14 NFL seasons with the Indianapolis Colts. “I still think we have room for improvement.”
Manning entered the season with 10-1 odds, the same as Philadelphia quarterback Michael Vick, who’s now unlisted after having 14 turnovers in the Eagles’ 3-5 start that includes four straight losses. Manning has thrown for 2,404 yards, with 20 touchdowns and six interceptions, while completing an NFL-best 69.5 percent of his pass attempts.
“We put up Peyton at 10-1 to win the MVP and we were not seeing too many bets at that price,” Kevin Bradley, Bovada sportsbook manager, said in an e-mail. “I guess people wanted to see what type of shape he would be in. It is clear now after the last few weeks that he is back in the swing of things as he was before his injury and is now the MVP favorite.”
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan is listed as the second favorite with 3-1 odds after throwing for 2,360 yards, 17 touchdowns and six interceptions in his team’s 8-0 start. The Falcons visit the New Orleans Saints on Nov. 11.
Tom Brady of the New England Patriots has 6-1 odds to win the award, followed by a pair of other quarterbacks: reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers at 7-1 and Eli Manning of the New York Giants at 12-1. The Patriots host the Buffalo Bills this weekend, while the Giants are at the Cincinnati Bengals and the Packers are off.
Peyton Manning heads into this week’s game against the Panthers with 419 career touchdown passes and needs two more to surpass Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino for the second-most in NFL history behind Brett Favre.
Since throwing three interceptions in a Week 2 loss in Atlanta, Manning has totaled three pickoffs in the past six games while throwing for more than 300 yards in five of them. He fell just short in last week’s victory in Cincinnati, finishing with 291 yards, and is on pace to break Jay Cutler’s single- season franchise record of 4,526 passing yards.
Manning’s Broncos are four-point favorites in Carolina and now have 10-1 odds of winning the Super Bowl, according to the Las Vegas Hotel’s Super Book. They’re tied with the Pittsburgh Steelers for eighth-best odds in the NFL behind the San Francisco 49ers, Houston Texans, Patriots, Packers, Giants, Falcons and Chicago Bears. The Texans visit the Bears in a matchup of 7-1 teams in this week’s featured Sunday night game.
Broncos coach John Fox said not only has Manning shown he’s fully recovered from neck fusion surgery, his veteran quarterback has successfully adjusted to a new offensive system while navigating a first-half schedule in which six of eight opponents made the playoffs in 2011.
“There were a lot of expectations, a lot of excitement with the signing,” Fox told reporters this week. “We knew it was going to take some time, we knew there were going to be some bumps. We couldn’t be more pleased with his efforts and what he’s done. He’s overcome a lot of things -- a new offense, new teammates, an injury and hadn’t played in a year.”
Manning, who signed a five-year, $96 million contract, said he didn’t necessarily know what to expect this season, except that he’d have to make adjustments after 14 years and one Super Bowl title with Indianapolis.
“When you’re playing with new players and a new offense, it takes a little while to get to know guys,” Manning said. “I’m learning every week about my teammates and about myself in this new role and that’s going to be ongoing the entire season. If you can have some success while you’re learning, that’s obviously a positive.”
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