Peyton Manning's season best ever?

Peyton Manning is on pace to pass Tom Brady's 2007 in several statistical areas. Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Peyton Manning's directive to shove the prevailing cold-weather narrative about him "where the sun don't shine" should rank high on his list of impressive comebacks.

It's not that Manning has always played well in the cold -- he hasn't. It's more that he has played only two home games in freezing temperatures over the past decade, including his dominant Week 14 performance in Denver's 51-28 victory over Tennessee. His 1-5 road record in freezing games over the same period included a victory at New England and two Week 17 defeats when Manning came out of the game early. It's not much to go on.

Now that we've shoved that narrative into the dark recesses of the current NFL dialogue -- or at least shelved it until the playoffs -- there is another matter for consideration.

Manning's 45 touchdown passes during the Broncos' 11-2 start is putting him on pace for arguably the greatest statistical season for a quarterback in NFL history. There is no sure way to rank seasons across eras, of course, but most would agree Dan Marino set the standard with his 48 scoring passes in 1984. Manning broke the record with 49 in 2004, only to have Tom Brady throw 50 three years later.

If Brady occupies the No. 1 spot on the Mount Rushmore of modern QB statistical seasons, how is Manning stacking up this season? The search for answers begins with a look at how both fared overall, against winning teams, on third-and-long and in fourth-quarter comeback situations. The breakdowns produced a surprise or two and helped me arrive at a verdict in the end of just how impressive Manning is this season.

Overall stats