Peyton Manning continued his offensive onslaught in Week 5 with a five-touchdown performance in a 51-48 win over the Cowboys. He now has 20 touchdown passes and only one interception in five games.
Patriots, Packers and Saints fans may still maintain their team has the best quarterback in the NFL. And Steelers and Giants fans might point to the Super Bowl hardware their quarterbacks have. But any unbiased analysis of the 2013 NFL season shows Manning is playing far above his contemporaries. And it's not even all that close.
The thing is, just 19 months ago, any team in the NFL could have had Manning. Each and every team in the NFL could have made a significant upgrade at the quarterback position. Yet only a few NFL teams showed serious interest in Manning when he was a free agent.
To show all those NFL teams what they're missing, let's fire up the ol' what-if machine and see what the past two seasons would have been like for every NFL team with Peyton Manning.
Dallas: Peyton Manning would be the richest athlete in sports, the Cowboys would be in the playoffs (although still not necessarily winning in them) and Tony Romo would be thriving with a lesser brand name NFL team, free to throw late-game interceptions in peace.
Philadelphia: The Eagles would have a legitimately explosive offense instead of a theoretically explosive offense.
San Diego: Norv Turner would still be employed as a head coach with his "offensive genius" card reinstated.
Kansas City: Romeo Crennel would still be the head coach of the Chiefs and 49ers fans would be calling for Alex Smith to start in place of the struggling Colin Kaepernick.
Carolina: Ron Rivera would be making faces like this, confident in his job security.
Tampa Bay: Greg Schiano wouldn't run his starting quarterback out of town, and if he tried to, he would be fired. By his starting quarterback.
Tennessee: Manning would be named King of Tennessee.
Houston: Matt Schaub would be on the bench and people on the Internet wouldn't be saying mean things about him.
Jacksonville: Manning would give the Jaguars their first true franchise player in history and get them into the playoffs. Although some Jaguars fans would still demand the team sign and start Tim Tebow.
Arizona: America would no longer be wasting one of its finest natural resources in Larry Fitzgerald.
Detroit: Calvin Johnson would have had 3,000 receiving yards last year and Peyton Manning would star in a commercial for every American-made car.
Baltimore: Joe Flacco wouldn't have a Super Bowl ring, making the world less confusing.
Miami: Not only would all of Dan Marino's career passing records be gone, but many of his team records would be on the way out, too.
Buffalo: Manning and the Bills would be in the process of losing four consecutive Super Bowls, because nothing ever works out perfectly for Buffalo sports.
New Orleans: "Peyton Manning is from New Orleans!" would be the new "Jerome Bettis is from Detroit!"
Oakland: In reality the Raiders didn't go after Manning because they were settled on Carson Palmer. Instead of playing a what-if fantasy game, let's just let that reality settle in.
San Francisco: The 49ers would have awesome backup quarterback depth in Colin Kaepernick and Alex Smith.
Washington: Our nation would be woefully lacking in RG III-related news, feature stories, documentaries, live news conferences and commercials.
Chicago: Jay Cutler would stand around with a generally unhappy look on his face.
Green Bay: Green Bay's third-string quarterback would have very little chance at ever getting the starting job.
Seattle: Russell Wilson would be the NFL's most awesome scout team quarterback.
St. Louis: Jeff Fisher would be able to add to his jersey collection and maybe even get an autograph.
Cincinnati: Andy Dalton would be getting sunburned on the sidelines.
Minnesota: Things definitely would have gone better than the last time the Vikings acquired an NFL quarterback legend.
New York Jets: See Minnesota, then add lack of cell phone pictures.
Pittsburgh: Todd Haley's play calls would be getting ignored even more than they are now.
Cleveland: Manning would probably blow out his knee or something, because Cleveland is Cleveland.
Atlanta: The Falcons would have a great regular season, and then probably lose at home in the playoffs. So no change.
New York Giants: Manning Family Thanksgivings would be very awkward.
New England: The world would be over because the sports media would have run around setting fire to everything when the deal was announced.
Quote of the Week
"Knowshon sucks." -- LeSean McCoy
Knowshon sucks RT @RealSkipBayless: Peyton is doing what Peyton always does. But Knowshon is KILLING the Cowboys.
— Lesean McCoy (@CutonDime25) October 6, 2013
Yikes. Strong take, Shady. Chances are McCoy's less than complimentary opinion of Moreno probably comes from the 2009 draft. McCoy somehow dropped late into the second round, losing a lot of money, while Moreno was the first running back taken at No. 12 overall. By the way, Donald Brown and Beanie Wells also were picked ahead of McCoy. His opinion on their abilities probably wouldn't be able to be reprinted on a family website such as this.
Stat of the Week
The Broncos scored 51 points in their win over the Cowboys. The Jaguars have scored 51 points this season. The Broncos and Jaguars play next week in Denver and the spread is currently set at ohmigod there is blood everywhere someone make it stop please have mercy someone please call for help show a heart these people have families.
Misleading Stat of the Week
Matt Schaub set an NFL record Sunday by throwing a pick-six for the fourth consecutive game. That's eye-opening, sure, but realize he did his very best to have a pick-six in five straight. In Houston's opener, Schaub's first pass attempt -- and therefore his first pass attempt of the season -- was thrown to San Diego nose tackle Cam Thomas just 14 yards away from the end zone. But Thomas couldn't take it all the way in. That's not Schaub's fault. He put Thomas in position to make the play. Let this serve as a reminder that even when it comes to individual records, football is a team/other team game.
This Week's Horrible Fantasy Team That Crushed Your Team
Sam Bradford, QB, Rams -- 19-for-34, 222 yards, 3 TD
Pierre Thomas, RB, Saints -- 91 total yards, 2 TD
Willis McGahee, RB, Browns -- 26 carries, 72 yards, TD
Alshon Jeffery, WR, Bears -- 10 catches, 218 yards, TD
Rueben Randle, WR, Giants -- 6 catches, 96 yards, 2 TD
Brent Celek, TE, Eagles -- 3 catches, 47 yards, TD
Photos of the Week
Press Conference Questions Someone Should Have Asked
Tom Coughlin: "Would you consider this the best coaching job of your career, considering you have a horribly flawed football team just two games out of first place?"
Bill Belichick: "Have you ever considered giving Tom Brady some fashion advice?"
Ron Rivera: "Oh, you're still here?"
Reader Twitter Question of the Week
@DJGalloESPN Now that they've won games, plural, how do the NFL Revolution Eagles compare to the great Eagles Dynasty of yesteryear?
— Machel (@trogdor42) October 6, 2013
The Vince Young "Dream Team" Eagles of 2011 went 8-8. The Michael Vick "Dynasty" Eagles of 2012 went 4-12. And this year's Chip Kelly revolutionary new era Eagles are 2-3.
I get tired of how the media and fans today think everything has to be graded and ranked. Why do we have to determine if LeBron or Jordan is better? Why can't we just enjoy the greatness of both? Why do we have to determine if Joe Flacco is "elite"? He's not, but that doesn't change the fact that he won a Super Bowl. My point is this: Let's not feel we need to rank the great Eagles teams of recent years. Let's just be grateful that we've been alive to see them all.
Forced Sports/Pop Culture Reference in Hopes of Sounding Cool
What's with the Cleveland Browns in first place? That's crazier than the "Homeland" character Carrie Mathison, played by Claire Danes. And how about that Matt Schaub? He's playing quarterback as though he were a zombie on the hit AMC show "The Walking Dead," which returns next Sunday at 9 p.m.!
Five Things I Thought We'd Think They'd Think
1. The Jaguars are the first team since the 1986 Colts to lose its first five games by 10-plus points. But there is hope. Look at that '86 Colts team, for example. They were bad in 1986, but just 13 years later they had themselves a team with double-digit wins. And only 20 years later the Colts won a Super Bowl. It will happen for you, too, Jaguars fans. Just have a little bit of patience.
2. The Browns are in first place. They have two first-round picks. Trent Richardson is averaging just 2.9 yards per carry with the Colts, his longest run going for only 16 yards. The Steelers are winless. Jim Brown and the franchise are back on good terms. Team owner Jimmy Haslam is laughing maniacally and hasn't been indicted yet. Everything is coming up Cleveland. Why are you doing this to them, inevitable fate? Not cool. What's it going to be: 11 consecutive losses to end the season? Richardson knocking them out of the playoffs on a last-second, 99-yard touchdown run? Haslam selling the team to investors in Los Angeles? Worse? My god. You're a monster, inevitable fate.
3. The 2003 book "Bringing Down the House" told the true story of how students from MIT and Harvard used their big brains to game the system and win millions in blackjack at casinos around the world. The book was a bestseller and the story was even made into a movie. I mention this because I have a wildly successful track record as a ghostwriter for athlete books and I think Ryan Fitzpatrick could "write" a book about how he used his Harvard education to game the system and somehow stick for nine years in the NFL, including winning a $59 million contract from the Bills. We'll call it "Throwing It To Yourself." Call me, Ryan.
4. The NFC East is a complete embarrassment. Washington hasn't won a Super Bowl since 1991 and has just a single playoff victory since 1999. The Cowboys have one playoff victory since 1996. And the Eagles have never won a Super Bowl. Oh, and then there's this season. But I don't want to pile on.
5. Always remember this important rule of NFL fandom: If a player or team you like puts up big numbers, it is because they are awesome; but if a player or team you hate puts up big numbers, it is because the opposing team has a garbage defense.
How They Spent Their Bye Week
Washington: Rocking out to some amazing tunes in the locker room.
Minnesota: Interacting with NFL experts.