Senior NFL Columnist

Power Rankings: Manning has Broncos peaking at right time

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Sitting on a bench, looking out at the Denver Broncos practice field on a crisp June day, Peyton Manning wasn't so sure where he was as a player.

"I really don't know and won't know until I play in games," he told me that day. "There are a lot of things that go into it. I am getting there. But there are still some things that I won't be able to do like I used to do."

Peyton, you were wrong. You can still do everything you used to do.

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When I went to Denver in June to see Manning's first minicamp, I went with the idea in my head that he wouldn't even attempt to come back from neck surgery and nerve damage if he didn't think he could be close to the same player.

When I watched Manning throw that day, and watched him take over the huddle and the team, I was convinced he was the same Peyton Manning. He wasn't as sure.

Here we are six months later, and he is every bit the same Peyton Manning. His Denver Broncos have won 10 consecutive games and are tied for the best record in the AFC. Manning has 34 touchdown passes, the second-highest total of his career to the 49 he threw in 2004. His completion percentage of 68.1 is the best of his career, and his passer rating of 103.7 is his best since 2005.

The Broncos are second in scoring offense and fourth in total offense. Manning is the reason why. Broncos president John Elway deserves huge props for getting Manning, but Manning himself deserves a ton of praise for getting back to where he is today. Nobody in the NFL works harder, and it's paying off.

One of the things Manning wondered about last June was how his age would impact how he played. At 36, he isn't a kid anymore. But the thing about a quarterback like Manning is that his most dangerous weapon is his head. He knows what the defense is doing before they do.

The mind is still second to none in the NFL when it comes to quarterbacking.

Denver is the top team here in the CBSSports.com Power Rankings, and they are a real threat to win it all. Manning is a real threat to be the MVP of the league.

I don't think even he could have imagined this being this good way back in June when he was still uncertain about how he would play. But, as we've learned many a time through the years, it's hard to doubt Peyton Manning.

RANK TEAM MOVE (LW)

Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. He hosted his own radio show for seven years, and is the self-anointed star of CBS Sports' show, Eye on Football. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an Arizona State national title in football.
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