For the first time since forever in the long and illustrious history of the NFL, pregame focus will be on a backup quarterback as the Denver Broncos try to clinch the AFC West crown through Brock Osweiler, whose backup will be none other than Peyton Manning for his home matchup against the San Diego Chargers.
Manning is set to return after missing the last six games due to a torn plantar fascia in his left foot. The veteran QB returned to practice on Wednesday after he last worked out with his teammates on December 17, doing 7-on-7 drills and running the scout team before another setback delayed his recovery.
Wednesday was the first time Manning had a full practice session since November 13.
”I’m happy to be more of a part of it now than just being in street clothes and kind of quarantined in the indoor facility and working out on my own,” he said.
Coach Gary Kubiak said Manning will get some work with the starters but Osweiler will get the bulk of it this week. Manning has never served as a backup in his NFL career.
“He (Manning) just needs to get back in the groove with the action with the team,” Kubiak said.
And although his role has changed since then, Manning still leads the NFL with 17 interceptions in nine games.
Manning also had something to say once again regarding Al Jazeera’s report last weekend where it was suggested that he had obtained HGH through his wife from an Indianapolis anti-aging clinic where he receive post-operative treatment back in 2011.
”The report wasn’t true Sunday. It’s not true today and it won’t ever be true,” Manning said. ”And I’m still angry about it.”
Back to the game front where no one can argue the fact that Osweiler deserves to start ahead of his senior teammate. The youngster has thrown for eight TDs to three interceptions in his six-game stint as a starter. Moreover, he completed 27 of 39 passes for 299 yards with one TD to guide his team to its critical 20-17 overtime win over AFC North champions, Cincinnati on Moday.
And Osweiler is not worried that a living legend is going to be sitting on the bench as opposed to him.
”I’m not really going to think about who the backup is this week,” Osweiler said. ”My focus is 100 percent on the Chargers defense and doing whatever I can to prepare to go win a football game.”
The young QB’s exploits have put Denver in touching distance with not only the division title but also a first-round bye which gives Manning more time to get ready.
The Broncos will win the division with a victory or loss by Kansas City to Oakland. However, they need to win in order to gain the first-round bye unless the Chiefs and Bengals both lose on Sunday.
Osweiler has linked up pretty well with Owen Daniels who had five catches for 70 yards last week. He will also be hoping to link up with Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. However, Brandon Marshall’s ankle injury might make things a little complicated. The linebacker has a team-high 101 total tackles for a top-rated defense yielding with an average of 280.9 yards.