That’s another week in the books for the National Football League, except for the Monday night match-up when Houston travel to the banks of the three rivers to face Ben Roethlisberger’s Pittsburgh Steelers, of course. That game will get a mention later, but first we’re going to take a little look at some of the stories coming out of the league from a prediction-busting Week 7.
Peyton Manning – It’s Official
Inevitable. That’s probably the best word to describe what took place Sunday night in Denver, a game which saw Peyton Manning lead a dominant Broncos offence to victor over the visiting 49ers. The result is interesting, and the scoreline pretty surprising, but what we really need to talk about is Peyton surpassing Brett Favre’s all-time 508 passing touchdown record. The 19 touchdowns secured from Manning’s arm so far this season take him to a career total of 510, and he shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. When the Indianapolis Colts decided to move on from over a decade with Peyton heading up their offence after the 2011 season, nobody seemed to know what was next for the (then) 11-time pro-bowler. Manning had missed the entirety of the 2011 season, needing two separate surgeries to deal with a neck injury, the first break in a 208-game streak, but that injury and his release by the Colts cast a cloud of uncertainty over the already certain Hall of Fame inductee.
The 19 touchdowns secured from Manning’s arm so far this season take him to a career total of 510, and he shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon
Since joining the Denver Broncos though, it’s become abundantly clear that not only has the neck injury been put to bed, but Peyton has no intention of letting his veteran status do anything but make his game stronger. The 2013 season was a career landmark, with Broncos receivers benefiting from having the most elite of quarterbacks to the tune of 5477 passing yards, including 12 games of over 300 yards. With that resurgence in form, it has always seemed inevitable that Peyton Manning would eventually have to find a place on his mantelpiece for Favre’s trophy – but now the question is how far will he go? The record has been broken in 246 regular season games, 56 games short of Favre’s total when he set the record. Football careers are tough to predict, but if Peyton can match Favre for a start, and if he manages to put the ball in the end zone 30 times a season (which would be a reasonable regression right now, given his last few seasons registering 33, 33, 37 and 55) we’re going to see Manning cruise past 600 career touchdowns.
Percy Harvin Trade
With a dismal 1-6 record in the AFC East, the New York Jets had two choices for the remainder of this season. Option A: abandon ship, fire head coach Rex Ryan and begin the rebuild right now with a juicy draft pick in 2015, or Option B: try and give Ryan the tools to save this season, his job and perhaps his career as a head coach. Owner Woody Johnson has clearly opted for the latter, and the Jets hope their salvation comes in the shape of Percy Harvin.
That’s Super Bowl Champion and former Seattle Seahawk Percy Harvin, leaving a team which most people expect to make it into the post-season for a franchise unlikely to even achieve a .500 record this season. It might be a tough trade to get your head round. There’s no question that Harvin is an upgrade in New York, a wide receiver with that sort of talent is a real threat to every defence in the league, both as a scoring threat himself but also taking defensive attention away from the rest of the offence and allowing a group lacking in talent to find some space. Geno Smith should be thanking his lucky stars that he now has a capable target to throw the ball to, it might be the saving of his career in New York if he can get the offence rolling.
Geno Smith should be thanking his lucky stars that he now has a capable target to throw the ball to
But what about Seattle? Harvin’s departure is going to impact the Seattle attack. How much remains to be seen, but the pressure is going to mount on running back Marshawn Lynch as the absolute leader of the attack. In what is almost certainly Lynch’s final season in the league he’s going to be asked to take a huge number of carries in the final eight games, and if his body can’t take the strain then this trade might backfire on the Super Bowl champions.
In reality, Harvin’s switch to the east coast is the first move the Seahawks are being forced to make in order to accommodate the contract they’re going to have to hand Russell Wilson when his rookie deal expires. Having a quarterback who earns around $1m per season allows a team to hand big deals to star playmakers elsewhere on the team (like Harvin) but when that deal jumps to something in the $16-20m range, cuts have to be made to keep the roster under the cap. Harvin is the first casualty of those manoeuvres, and Lynch will likely follow at the end of the season, leaving the Seahawks with a brilliant young quarterback lacking in targets. Some quarterbacks can handle that pressure, they can call the game and turn average receivers into game-changers, but others struggle until the organisation manages to assemble a new attacking unit.
So for two young quarterbacks, the move of Percy Harvin could be the beginning of their legacies: can Russell Wilson continue to be successful without a strong receiving corps, and can Geno Smith save his career now he has a reliable and unquestionably talented playmaker to target?