The careers of Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck will forever be linked after the Indianapolis Colts let the five-time MVP go in order to select Luck with the top pick in the 2012 draft. The Colts hit the jackpot with Luck, who will face a daunting task when he leads Indianapolis into Denver to face Manning and the No. 2-seeded Broncos in Sunday's AFC Divisional Round. Manning is 1-1 against his former team, including a 31-24 victory in Week 1.
Much like he did with the Colts, Manning has re-established a standard of excellence with the Broncos and is looking to make a return trip to the Super Bowl after getting demolished by Seattle last season. Manning guided Denver to an 8-0 record at home this season and is 22-2 at Mile High since joining the Broncos prior to the 2012 season. “We’re excited and looking forward to the postseason,” Manning said. "This is why you work so hard all season to get this opportunity. Playoff football takes on different twists and turns. You’re going to play some really good football teams.”
TV: 4:40 p.m. ET, CBS. LINE: Broncos -7. O/U: 54
ABOUT THE COLTS (12-5): Indianapolis, the fourth seed after winning the AFC South title, opened the playoffs with a 26-10 home victory over Cincinnati as Luck threw for 376 yards and a touchdown. Luck led the NFL with 40 touchdown passes while throwing for 4,761 yards and will continue to look for wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, who had six catches for 103 yards last week and has amassed 496 receiving yards in his first four postseason games - the second-highest total in league history (Larry Fitzgerald, 546). Daniel Herron rushed for 56 yards and caught 10 passes for 85 yards, but also committed a pair of fumbles. Indy limited the Bengals to 254 total yards but permitted at least 31 points in half its eight road games.
ABOUT THE BRONCOS (12-4): Unlike last season, when Manning threw a record-setting 55 touchdowns and 5,477 yards, the Broncos have relied on the legs of C.J. Anderson down the stretch. Anderson took over the starter midway through the season and finished with 849 yards while scoring an NFL-best seven touchdowns in December, giving Denver a complement to a high-powered passing game featuring Demaryius Thomas (1,619 yards, 11 TDs) and Emmanuel Sanders (1,404, nine TDs), who combined for 212 catches. Manning still put up stellar numbers, throwing for 4,727 yards with 39 TDs and 15 interceptions, but he had twice as many picks (six) as scoring passes (four) over the final four games. The Broncos ranked second in the league, permitting 79.8 yards rushing per game.
1. Manning is 11-12 in the postseason with a league-record 6,589 passing yards.
2. Luck has thrown for 300 yards in three straight playoff games, one shy of tying the record held by Dan Fouts.
3. TE Julius Thomas had a team-high 12 TDs despite missing three games for Denver, which owns a 15-4 postseason mark at home.
PREDICTION: Broncos 34, Colts 26