Manning, Dalton have something to prove

Joe Amon/The Denver Post/Getty Images

Peyton Manning has struggled in the red zone his last three games.Both quarterbacks have something to prove on “Monday Night Football” this week (yes, including Peyton Manning).

In the previous three weeks, the only qualified quarterbacks with fewer completions per game than Manning (15.0) are Geno Smith, Zach Mettenberger and Ryan Fitzpatrick. Manning has completed fewer than 20 passes in three consecutive games for the second time in his career.

Manning is averaging more off-target passes per game (6.7) than in his first 11 games (6.4), despite averaging 15 fewer attempts per game. Manning has been off-target on 27 percent of his throws in that span, the second-highest percentage in the league (Colin Kaepernick, 33 percent).

Red-zone difficulties

Peyton Manning Red-Zone Passing
This Season

The red zone used to be automatic for Manning, who led the league in completion percentage, touchdown passes and Total QBR in the red zone through his first 11 games.

Red-zone weapon Julius Thomas still leads the league with nine red-zone touchdown catches, but he missed three straight games because of injury and was limited last Sunday. Manning has connected on 86.6 percent of red-zone passes to Thomas this season but 67.1 percent to all other receivers.

If Manning is under pressure to improve, imagine how Andy Dalton feels. The Bengals are 0-2 in prime-time games this year, with the third-worst points margin (minus-47) and turnover margin (minus-6) among the 31 teams with a prime-time game (7 ET or later). In non-prime-time games, Cincinnati has a 9-2-1 record with a plus-69 points margin and plus-4 turnover margin.

Day and night

Andy Dalton Career By Start Time

Dalton is the biggest reason for the Bengals’ prime-time struggles. Dalton has a career .694 winning percentage in afternoon games, trailing only Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Alex Smith and Andrew Luck. In that same span, Dalton has a .250 winning percentage in prime time, better than only Christian Ponder (.200) among qualified quarterbacks.

It’s also not just this year. Under Marvin Lewis, the Bengals have really struggled in prime time. Since Lewis became the head coach in 2003, Cincinnati is 6-15 in prime time (.286 win percentage, 28th in NFL), with a minus-8.4-point margin per game that ranks 30th in the league. Only the Bills (minus-8.9) and Raiders (minus-10) have worse per-game point margins in prime time than the Bengals under Lewis.