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Payton Manning - Over-Sharpening the Saw?

Posted by Jack Duval

Feb 4, 2015 4:25:00 PM

Much has been written about Peyton Manning’s playoff record (11-13), which most of it focusing on the number of “one-and-done” playoff losses (nine).  David Fleming, writing for summarizes it this way:[1]

Yes, Peyton has the best brain in the game, the best work ethic, best study skills, best field vision, best preparation and best execution but, according to one expert who has studied Manning since his college days, the one thing he lacks is the ability to throw caution to the wind, let the ball fly and make something out of nothing.

So we are to believe that one of the all time greatest quarterback’s fatal flaw is his failure to create “something out of nothing”?  I find this inherently unsatisfactory.  Indeed, I think it is ridiculous.

However, I think the answer is in Fleming’s quote, but in the first half.  Manning is the undisputed king of preparation. I believe this works against him in the playoffs because he over-prepares. 

This can be seen in the statistics.  The probability of Peyton Manning losing in the playoffs given an extra week off is 70 percent. The probability of a loss given no extra week off is 43 percent.[2][3] This equates to a 63 percent higher chance of loss for a Manning team if he has an extra week to prepare.


Simply put, it appears that Manning is “over-sharpening the saw”.

Chart 1.  Playoff Games with Two Weeks Off



Interestingly, during the regular season the extra week off appears to help.   The probability of a loss given an extra regular season week off is 18 percent compared to a 32 percent probability of a loss given no extra week off.  This translates to a 44 percent lower chance of a loss for Manning given an extra week to prepare.


Chart 2.  Regular Season Games with Two Weeks Off


It would appear that the added pressure of the playoffs plus the extra week to prepare is a bad combination for Manning. 

Chart 3.  All Games with Two Weeks Off – Sorted by Season Week


If he plays again for Denver and they make the playoffs with a bye week, Manning should utilize his legendary discipline to practice one of the most difficult tasks of all: non-doing.

If they make it to the Super Bowl (where there is another week off) Manning should go full on Zen.



[1] David Fleming; Peyton Manning’s playoff blemish;; January 9, 2014; Available at:; Accessed February 3, 2015.

[2] A “week off” is here defined as 13 or 14 days between games. This has the effect of including the 13 day breaks that occur when a playoff game occurs on a Saturday following a Sunday game two weeks before, but excluding the 10 day breaks that have occurred after the introduction of the Thursday night game.

For the regular season statistics the first game of each season is excluded.  Manning has played 256 regular season games.  Excluding the first game reduces the sample set to 240 games.

[3] Data obtained from The Football Database, available at; Accessed February 1, 2015.


For information about Jack Duval, click here.

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Topics: Statistics, Peyton Manning, Football

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