Is Philip Rivers having a better season than Peyton Manning?

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODA

While everyone drools over the numbers that Peyton Manning is putting up for the Denver Broncos this season, let's take a moment to remember the incredible year Philip Rivers is currently having for the San Diego Chargers.

While the majority of the talk surrounding this Thursday's matchup between the Denver Broncos and the San Diego Chargers will focus upon the Peyton Manning playing quarterback for the Denver Broncos, and his pursuit of the NFL's season passing touchdown record, it'd be a pitty if we didn't once again highlight the Peyton Manning playing for the other side: Philip Rivers.

I don't mean that in a hyperbolic sense, either. In 2013, Philip Rivers has been Peyton Manning's statistical equivalent, at least from a rate standpoint:

Player Yards/Attempt Completion % Interception % Fumble %
Peyton Manning 8.4 67.9 1.7 1.8
Philip Rivers 8.4 70.3 1.9 0.4

And if you care to normalize against the talent at their disposal, it isn't crazy to think Philip has outplayed Peyton so far in 2013.

Here's what Peyton has to work with:

  • Demaryius Thomas was catching game-winning touchdowns in the playoffs when Tim Tebow was throwing him football...with or without Peyton Manning, he's one of the elite wideouts in the NFL
  • Wes Welker may end up, or already is, the most accomplished slot receiver in the history of the NFL
  • Eric Decker has proven himself with his second consecutive 1000 yard campaign and third straight season with eight or more touchdowns (and I can only imagine how awesome it'd be if he had ended up in San Diego like how the Bolts From The Blue representative drafted him back in 2010)
  • Julius Thomas has become an elite tight-end out of the Antonio Gates, basketball background mold
  • A triumvirate of running backs (in Knowshon Moreno, Monte Ball, and Ronnie Hillman), all picked in the early rounds of the NFL draft, have combined for over 2000 yards on offense, including 72 receptions
  • Four offensive lineman with a rating of at least +15 at PFF. Denver's offense is a well-oiled machine and appears to be without a weakness.

Juxtapose that to what Philip on offense:

  • The two receivers highest on the depth chart were gone before the season began
  • Keenan Allen has been phenomenal as a replacement and appears to be the frontrunner for Offensive Rookie of the Year
  • Danny Woodhead has been sensational on third down and in the no-huddle
  • Ryan Mathews has clearly improved, but appears to be nothing more than a power back (albeit a good one)
  • Eddie Royal has been hot-and-cold, while proving incapable of staying on the field
  • Antonio Gates is not the same player he was pre-2012 and carries a negative rating on PFF
  • Ladarius Green is just beginning to show production on the field, but still struggles for snaps
  • Vincent Brown has been a disappointment
  • The offensive line, though largely improved, has faced considerable injury problems (and still generally lacks the talent Denver has).

Clearly, Philip doesn't have the depth that Peyton has at his disposal. Case in point: his most meaningful pass of the entire season was to a player who's borderline practice squad fodder to the Denver Broncos: Seyi Ajirotutu. That pass was a perfect strike, mind you.

Quick Conclusion

I'm not complaining about the media focus being on Manning rather than Rivers; it's understandable given the record pursuits and playoff implications. I just hope that when the two teams take the field on Thursday night, you remember to appreciate the quarterbacks taking snaps for both sides: they're both elite players having career years simultaneously.

And though these guys may not end up with comparable careers - in some statistical respects they have, but until Philip Rivers is leading the lead in most categories at the age of 37, I'll hold back the cumulative comparisons - they have been near equals in 2013.

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