“Sheriff” Wins Seven in a Row; Pats and Houston Ready for AFC Showdown

Roy Ben-Joseph  Journal Staff

It has been exactly a year ago since December 2011, when most NFL analysts said Peyton Manning, the “Old Sheriff” was all washed out and done. Peyton Manning was on the edge of his 36th birthday and his fourth neck surgery in six months. In the off-season, after becoming a free agent for the first time in his life following his release from the Indianapolis Colts, and 14 years after being selected by them in the 1998 NFL draft as the first overall pick, Manning was looking for a new home.

The Denver Broncos took the chance and signed Manning, who was rumored to have some issues affecting his throwing arm, his strength, and his accuracy as a result of the surgeries. Thirteen weeks into the season, all doubts are gone. The Broncos, who finished the 2011 season with a disappointing 8-8 record, are already 9-3 with 4 games left. Manning looks like Manning again. He is in complete control of everything that happens on the line of scrimmage and keeps opposing team’s defensive coordinators awake at night more than ever.

Perhaps Manning’s most memorable  game this year came a few weeks ago in San Diego where Manning was responsible for the biggest comeback in the 48 years of Monday Night Football, after trailing 24-0 at the half time and coming with his explosive no huddle offense in the second half to finish 35-24.

Manning is on the verge of his fifth AP NFL MVP award, and his main competitor for the trophy is his old nemesis Tom Brady (both combined for winning four of the last five awards) who is having another record breaking season. Reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers is also in the mix again this year. Manning will almost certainly win the comeback player of the year award. Since his return, Peyton Manning hasn’t only proven that he is better than ever but also his old coaching skills, his leadership and presence are as big as they have ever been. Denver Broncos Head Coach John Fox told the press regarding Manning’s performance: “as a coach, it is amazing how much I have learned about the game of football from Peyton Manning”.

During Week 14, NFL fans will see one of the greatest games of the 2012 season and a possible playoff preview. The top two teams In the AFC and arguably in the NFL will meet in the freezing climate of Foxborough, MA, as the New England Patriots will host the Houston Texans in what could very possibly be an AFC championship game preview. Both teams have already secured a playoff berth last weekend, with the Patriots already clinching their division following Sunday’s victory in Miami. The Texans have yet to clinch theirs.

While the Pats have been on the top of the NFL in the last 10 years, Houston has most definitely become the rising power in the league after having their best season in franchise history last year (a record they already beat this year). It will be very interesting to see how the Houston defense, which is ranked top five, will deal with the record breaking New England offense which is not only more explosive than ever, but also stands alone by far as the best offense in every important offensive stat with number two being far behind. Houston’s defense features J.J. Watt, the 6’6 and 295LB linebacker who is going to do his best to try and disturb Tom Brady, who has blown away many teams this year. Watt is going to be in the discussion for defensive player of the year award.

The Patriots, on the other hand, suffered another blow in Julian Edelman’s foot injury against Miami. Edelman will join tight end Rob Gronkowski on the disabled list.

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