Probably the most anticipated regular season football game in Indianapolis Colts history will take place Sunday night when the Colts take on the Denver Broncos, or more accurately, when the Colts take on Peyton Manning.

Its an obvious observation to say that Peyton Manning is an Indianapolis icon, and easily the biggest sports star to ever play in Indiana’s capital city.  But a year and a half ago, with his health and career in question, he emotionally announced he was leaving the Colts, and as a result he left a city divided and many of his fans in mourning.

What Manning did for the Colts over 14 seasons was remarkable.

Peyton Manning

Peyton Manning

The Colts won more games in a ten-year period than any team in NFL history, largely due to the laser-accurate right arm of Manning who, like a maestro, literally orchestrated the Colts high-powered offense. During that time Manning won four league MVP awards and a Super Bowl.

But as much as this game revolves around Manning, the co-star in Sunday’s drama is Manning’s replacement in Indianapolis, Andrew Luck.

Luck, who was the first player picked in the 2012 draft is the reason the Colts felt comfortable parting ways with Manning.  Of course having the NFL’s worst record while Manning sat out the season with a complicated neck injury made the selection of Luck possible.

Luck has been everything the Colts could have hoped for. He is to many expert observers the best of an outstanding crop of young quarterbacks and is rapidly climbing the ladder of the league’s top signal callers. Many of those same experts say Luck is better at this point in his career than Manning was.

Andrew Luck

Andrew Luck

But what makes this game not just dramatic but important is the fact that Manning is having the best season of his storied career. And the Broncos are undefeated and considered the favorite to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. But the Colts, despite a slip up against San Diego this past Monday, also look strong enough to be considered a real challenger for the Super Bowl themselves at 4-2.

One of the interesting and controversial subplots leading up to Sunday night’s game is a statement made by Colts owner Jim Irsay which Broncos coach John Fox called a “cheap shot” at Manning. What Irsay said in sum was that he wants to win more than one championship with the current Luck-led roster. To which I say: what NFL owner doesn’t want to win multiple Super Bowls? And what NFL owner wouldn’t be a bit disappointed to have only come away with one Super Bowl win when he had a team led by one of the all-time greats? If that fact-based wish is a shot at Peyton Manning then so be it.

Still, expect hundreds if not thousands of Manning fans dressed in either number 18 Colts jerseys, or number 18 Broncos jerseys as reverence for Manning remains just that strong in Indianapolis. Tickets on the after market are already going for record prices, and NBC which will televise the game can expect its highest ratings of the season.

As for the game itself, the Broncos based on their record and Manning’s play, should be favored. So it won’t be a surprise if the visitors win.  But the Colts are not be taken lightly. And my gut says Andrew Luck will lead the Colts to victory with another one of his fourth quarter rallies.  My only hope though, no matter who wins, is that Peyton Manning looks good too and leaves the game unscathed.

The worst outcome would be the sight of Manning limping to the sidelines in the majestic stadium he helped make possible.

 

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  1. Brian says:

    I like this game. I especially like the Irsay angle. Manning looks in rage. I can only guess that this game is going to be electric.