Reprinted from David Dorey's weekly column in USA Today.
Move over Tom and Peyton.
The two iconic quarterbacks have treated fantasy leaguers for the last seven years and have even taken turns at holding the single-season record for most passing touchdowns. Thanks to crafty schedule makers, they battle each other every year if not once again during the playoffs. But the NFL still stands for "Not For Long" and Brady is out with a torn ACL and Manning is shaking off the rust of his own knee surgery. Not to worry though, football just moves on to the next Ali and Frazier.
Say hello to Jay and Philip.
The Denver Broncos surprised everyone when they used their 1.11 draft pick in 2006 to select Jay Cutler. After a season on the bench, He took over as the starter and had a good first season with 3497 passing yards and 20 touchdowns. But he was diagnosed with diabetes in the offseason and now medicated has reached a whole new level. His 980 passing yards currently ranks #1 in the NFL and Brandon Marshall already has 321 receiving yards to rank #2 despite being suspended for the first game. When Marshall did not play, the rookie Eddie Royal debuted with nine catches for 146 yards and a score in Oakland. The central figure in all of this is Cutler.
This is not merely a three game passing spree either - the Broncos are changing and no longer feature a dominating rushing attack. They no longer have the leg-whipping, bulldozing offensive line and with a defense that is allowing 28 points per game, they no longer have the luxury of just running the ball to win. It may be the opposite of what we've long been used to seeing in Denver, but Cutler is leading the change and making star receivers where once only downfield blockers existed.
In the same division we also find Philip Rivers who has been solid for two years as the starter while turning in around 3200 passing yards and 22 touchdowns per season. But 2008 has seen Rivers also stepping up to the next level. After only having four games with more than two scores in 2007, Rivers has already thrown for three touchdowns in each game and currently leads the NFL with nine passing scores. His quarterback rating of 124.8 is also tops in the league. He is currently on pace to reach 48 scores and 4500 yards - the same numbers that Tom Brady had just 12 months ago.
And this is not merely a just a hot start. The dynamics in San Diego are changing from merely handing off to the suddenly mortal LaDainian Tomlinson or throwing to Antonio Gates. Tomlinson is nearing the magic age of 30 and Gates still struggles with a toe he injured last season. But Rivers has already shifted to using his wide receivers with devastating results. Chris Chambers is tied for the NFL lead with four receiving touchdowns and Vincent Jackson is on pace to be the first Charger wideout with over 1000 yards since Curtis Conway back in 2001. Rivers too has joined the elite.
The stud quarterbacks are now called Jay and Philip? Welcome to the new NFL.