The Denver Broncos' 2014 season came to a shocking halt on Sunday when they were upset at home by the Indianapolis Colts. Now the big question is whether Peyton Manning returns next season. Bovada offers an NFL special prop on that decision.
Quad Injury Could Explain Struggles
I think most of America wanted to see Manning face off one more time against his Hall of Fame contemporary Tom Brady of the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game. Perhaps the Broncos would have gone to Foxboro and pulled an upset as Manning has beaten Brady in their past two playoff meetings. However, a 17th Manning-Brady game will have to wait until the 2015 season if No. 18 comes back for an 18th campaign at age 39. If you are wondering, New England does visit Denver next regular season. Bovada lists Manning playing Game 1 of 2015 at -700 with him retiring at +400.
Last week I wrote about Manning's struggles on deep balls and if it was a warning sign for Denver's Super Bowl chances. It turns out the answer was a resounding yes. Manning told anyone who asked that he was healthy, but that wasn't the case according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. He reported today that Manning played the final month of the season with a torn right quadriceps. That would definitely help explain why Manning's throws looked so flimsy in the 24-13 home loss to Indianapolis. Manning never had a cannon to begin with, and if he couldn't use his legs as much then that explains why there were so many ducks against the Colts. Manning finished 26 of 46 for 211 yards and a touchdown. His 20 incompletions were the third most in his playoff career. The passing yards and 13 points were both the fourth fewest in Manning's postseason career. Manning was 2-of-12 passing for 49 yards on attempts that traveled at least 15 yards and 6-of-21 for 107 yards on passes that traveled more than 5 yards.
It was Manning's 13th playoff loss, the most in NFL history. He has lost nine postseason openers. Back on Christmas Eve, Manning said he would play in 2015. He wouldn't answer that definitively after Sunday's loss: "I guess I just can't give that simple answer. I'm processing it. I can't say that. I could not say that."
Manning tailed off in the second half of the season but still had a tremendous year. His 4,727 yards were fourth in the NFL and second most in his career. Manning's 39 touchdown passes were second in the NFL and the third most in his career. It would be rather ironic if Manning's last game came against his former team and the guy who replaced him in Indy in Andrew Luck.
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If Manning does return then he will have a new head coach as the Broncos and Coach John Fox mutually agreed to part ways Monday. Fox was 2-3 in the playoffs with Denver, including two one-and-done postseasons. The entire coaching staff could look different. Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio is the leading candidate to land the Raiders' head coaching job. Offensive coordinator Adam Gase has interviewed for a few head coaching openings. Manning likes Gase so if Manning comes back he might want Gase promoted to replace Fox. The Broncos also have 17 free agents, led by receiver Demaryius Thomas and tight end Julius Thomas. If Manning does retire, Broncos general manager John Elway could opt for a total rebuild. Elway, incidentally, was the oldest QB to ever win a Super Bowl at age 38.
NFL Free Pick: How will this change Denver's future NFL odds? Will have to wait and see. I personaly can't imagine Manning goes out with that type of performance, so I say he's back. Manning also would pass Brett Favre for the all-time NFL lead in passing yards in 2015. Manning has 69,691 and Favre 71,838. We will have our answer no later than March but I'm sure much, much sooner than that. Manning is owed $19 million guaranteed, his 2015 base salary, if he's on the roster the last day of the league year in March. The new league year starts March 10. Manning turns 39 two weeks later.