As every athlete who ever lived can attest, Father Time never surrenders. In fact, this relentless character never has been beaten.

Michael Jordan, Babe Ruth, Muhammad Ali and John Elway (the quarterback) all were defeated. Even Brett Favre retired once and for all.

But in Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, Father Time seems as confused as defensive coordinators who are trying to read the quarterback's tendencies. Yes, nature had its moments. Four neck surgeries were factors in Manning missing the 2011 season. A significant percentage of arm strength is gone.

Yet, at 38, an age when Father Time has delivered his share of knockout blows to even the greatest of passers, Manning has become a better quarterback.

Check that, Omaha. Manning is playing the best football of his professional life.

"Am I better? I am a different quarterback, I think," Manning said.

He then used a baseball analogy he shared on "Letterman" about how an aging pitcher who loses his fastball can still get guys out through location and guile.

"Am I throwing 60-yard passes downfield throughout the game?" Manning said. "No. But I like to kid that I can throw a really accurate 10-yard pass. A pretty good 20-yard pass. And if I get really crazy, maybe the occasional 47-yard pass."

To still be playing at 38 should first bring congratulations. Troy Aikman, Terry Bradshaw, Dan Fouts, Jim Kelly and Roger Staubach were among quarterbacks who didn't make it that far. For six other Hall of Famers — including Elway, Joe Montana, Steve Young and Dan Marino — the age of 38 was their curtain season.

It is a formidable number, 38. And Manning lends further proof. He reached 38 in March after posting the best statistical season of his career at age 37 — the best single season in NFL history, for that matter. He won his record fifth NFL MVP award.

Clearly, he is playing at the top of his game. And yet, apparently because he is 38, the most frequently asked question regarding Manning is: How much longer do you think he will play?

The way to bet: Through the 2016 season, when his five-year contract with the Broncos expires. True, any NFL player who reaches 38 plays on a year-to-year basis. So do 28-year-old players, for that matter.

But if Manning threw for 55 touchdowns and nearly 5,500 yards at age 37, why should anyone believe the end is near?