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2015 Peyton Manning Had The Worst Season Of Any Super Bowl Quarterback Ever

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Manning's poor regular season play has no correlation with whether the Broncos will beat the Panthers. 

With a few notable exceptions, one being Brother Eli on the 2007 Giants, even the dumpier quarterbacks who get to the Super Bowl tend to play at about a league-average level. But Manning has blazed a new trail for ineffective passers with eyes on the Super Bowl, so long as they play in front of a superlative defense and cobble together a few decent playoff starts. There’s a reason the 2015 Broncos’ most similar team was the 2009 New York Jets.

Funny thing, however: Manning playing poorly doesn’t seem to matter very much for Denver’s chances of winning the game. Based on regular-season value over average, Cam Newton and the Panthers have a huge advantage in the passing game over the Broncos — the sixth-biggest in any Super Bowl since the merger, in fact2 — but that hasn’t mattered much in past Super Bowls. Whether you look at total or per-attempt measures of value, there’s essentially zero correlation between the disparity in regular-season QB performance for the Super Bowl opponents and the eventual point margin of the game itself. This makes sense, as the equilibrium of a successful team will account for poor play from any given position (even QB) if the rest of the team is strong enough. And given the importance of quarterbacks to modern NFL play, the Broncos’ compensation for Manning’s play is just about the most impressive thing we’ve seen out of a unit leading up to a Super Bowl.

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