You might want to sit down, Broncos & Patriots fans. I’ve got some tough news.
Neither Peyton Manning nor Tom Brady will win the Super Bowl this season. I’m sorry. I know this isn’t easy to hear.
To be fair, though, it shouldn’t come as too big a shock if you’ve been paying attention. This year’s Patriots are football’s answer to LeBron’s Cavaliers, a thoroughly mediocre team whose deficiencies are obscured by their sublime star. Come January, though, there will be nowhere to hide said shortcomings when the Pats go up against the NFL’s giants. (Wait, not those Giants… but the result will be the same as it was in two Super Bowls against those Giants.) There’s been lots of talk this week about whether New England can overcome the loss of Gronk – but the fact is, the team has been doomed since Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo went down. The run defense is now second-from-last in the NFL and has been gashed three straight weeks by the Broncos, Texans & Browns. Brady and Belichick give the Pats a puncher’s chance against any foe… but against three (or maybe even four) high-quality foes on the other side of the holidays? Ho-ho-no.
And then there’s Peyton.
He’s instructed us to stick the narrative about his cold-weather struggles where the sun don’t shine… but – as discussed on this week’s Shek Report – that narrative isn’t a work of fiction. It’s an autobiography penned by the guy who’s now 9-13 when it’s under 40 degrees outside (empirically bad for someone who’s won seven out of every ten games he’s played over 16 seasons).
In other words, saying Peyton isn’t as good when the weather goes south isn’t reckless speculation; it’s a statement of fact. Sorry if it rubs you the wrong way, but the nuanced reality is this: some wildly successful players and teams aren’t built for the post-season. That’s not to say they’re “chokers” – rather, their particular styles aren’t practically conducive to winning against the highest level of competition. For all their dominance in the National League over a decade-and-a-half, Atlanta Braves pitchers Greg Maddux & Tom Glavine came up short in the NL playoffs. Why? Because while a finesse-based approach was more than enough against the Padres in July, it was exposed by the powerful lineups that populate October baseball. Same goes for the University of Pittsburgh’s basketball team (albeit for the opposite reason). First under Ben Howland and now with Jamie Dixon, Pitt has been a consistent regular-season beast even against some of college basketball’s stiffest competition because of their brawny, grind-it-out style. Every March, though, the highly-seeded Panthers are outmoded by more athletic teams with whom they simply can’t keep pace.
And so it goes for Peyton, destined to run away with this year’s MVP, considered by some to be the best to ever play the position, but rendered pedestrian when the temperature drops and the competition rises. A wobbling pass thrown into tight coverage might find its mark on a warm September afternoon against the overmatched Raiders secondary, but it’s a recipe for a pick-six against a playoff-worthy defense on a chilly, raw evening in January.
So like I say, neither Tom Brady nor Peyton Manning will win this year’s Super Bowl. And now I’ll say this: Peyton Manning isn’t ever going to win another Super Bowl. At 37 and playing with a gaggle of offensive stars, this season is his last, best shot… but let’s say he survives the AFC bracket and somehow gets to New Jersey… in February… where it’ll be cold and windy and maybe even snowy. And let’s say that nasty defense from Seattle is there to meet him. You takin’ Peyton? Well, then – I wish you good luck and some warm headwear this holiday season… because just like another Peyton Manning-led playoff team – you’re gonna be left out in the cold.
In the meantime, let’s get to Week 15…
Warning: do not continue reading if you don’t want to know the outcome of this weekend’s games.
(0-1 this week, 9-7 last week, 133-77 on the season)
S. Jackson: 128 yds, TD
J. Cutler: 340 yds, 2 TDs
A. Luck: 402 yds, 3 TDs
M. Lewis: 47-yd TD rec.
S. Vereen: 161 yds/scrimmage, 2 TDs
D. Jackson: 133 yds, 2 TDs
G. Tate: 92 yds, TD
V. Davis: 62 yds, TD
CAR D: 5 safeties
D. Bowe: 119 yds, TD
D. Murray: 104 yds, 2 TDs
P. Thomas: 80 yds, TD
K. Wright: 126 yds, TD
L. Bell: 120 yds/scrimmage, 2 TDs
C. Johnson: 203 yds, 3 TDs
Enjoy Week 15, everybody! I hope your team wins (unless they’re playing my team).